CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Improving candidate recruitment at all levels is a key focus of a Republican National Committee project to overhaul GOP operations and position the party to better compete in the 2014 and 2016 elections.
The five-member task force appointed to examine the Republican Party’s weaknesses and chart a path forward said recommendations on attracting appealing, demographically diverse candidates to run for office at all levels will likely be included in its report, due in March. Task force members said the GOP must engage in a concerted, prolonged effort to recruit talented politicians — particularly women and ethnic minorities — if the party hopes to keep pace with the Democrats.
“This is not a difficult equation to complete,” Sally Bradshaw, a Republican consultant and task force member from Florida, told reporters during a news conference to update the group’s progress.
The “Growth and Opportunity” task force was created by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in the aftermath of a disappointing 2012 election cycle for the Republicans that saw President Barack Obama re-elected and the Democrats gain two Senate seats and eight House seats. Priebus is expected to be re-elected as RNC chairman in Charlotte on Friday, the last day of the party’s winter meeting.
With Priebus' re-election all but decided, RNC members and GOP operatives in attendance were focused on improving the party’s prospects in future elections. Although task force members were vague when asked by reporters to discuss their findings and what their report will recommend, it appeared clear their focus would include the development of a strategy for Republicans to make inroads with minority voters and other communities in which GOP candidates have generally underperformed.
Task force members said the group was not charged with making policy recommendations, and they emphasized that their effort was inclusive and prioritized listening to ideas from a broad cross section of Republicans, from elected officials on down to grass-roots activists. But they were unequivocal about what they wanted the findings and directives of their report to lead to — more Republicans in positions of power.
“We want to nominate a candidate who can win a general election. And if we’re not in the business of nominating a candidate who can win a general election, what business are we in?” said GOP lobbyist Henry Barbour, a task force member and RNC committeeman from Mississippi. “We’re in the business of winning elections.”
Other task force members include Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. Fleischer said the group’s report was on track to recommend that the RNC take control of the presidential debate process to ensure it best serves the interest of GOP primary voters.
“That’s one thing where people are crying out for change,” he said. “Twenty debates, that may be a tad too many.”