Repackaging the GOP's Message

Apr 5, 2013

National Republican leaders are doing some soul searching after suffering losses in November. Some Virginia Republicans are wary of a new re-branding effort being conducted by the national party.

The Republican National Committee says the G-O-P has a problem with women and minority voters. In assessing the party’s lackluster showing in 2012, party leaders introduced a 219 point proposal to help soften the party’s image, including doing better outreach in communities that are traditionally Democratic strongholds. Virginia Republican Congressman Randy Forbes says he isn’t sold on the attempted makeover by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.  

“His job is looking at politics, ours is looking at policy and they may not line up together.”

Even though President Obama won Virginia in 20-12, not a single congressional Republican lost their seat in the commonwealth. While campaign analysts say that was due to partisan redistricting in the state, Forbes says he took a message from his win: his voters are happy with him and his positions.  

“I think that’s what you saw in incumbents being elected. I think that’s what people saw far more than they did party labels on either side.”

But other Virginia Republicans are more open to the notion of repackaging the party’s message to appeal to broader group of voters. Congressman Morgan Griffith says it’s good for the party to do some soul searching.

“Well I think you can always take a look at what you’ve been doing and cast a new light on what you stand for. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. That doesn’t mean you change what you stand for, it just [means] you put a new light on it, particularly when you realize that for some reason a certain part of the electorate didn’t connect and you’ve got to figure out why you didn’t connect with them and they didn’t connect with you.”

Griffith says ideas alone aren’t enough even in the digital age…he says in person meetings are still vital.

“Gotta do both, in this modern age. You’ve got to do your social networking all of that as well, but I have to give credit to the President’s team. They did a lot better job of actually touching people.”

Virginia Republican Congressman Scott Rigell says members of his party needs to find a way to use a softer tone when speaking about contentious issues.

“Admittedly, some of my colleagues they use a degree of rhetoric that I wince at.”

Rigell says it also goes beyond word choice. He won his race in the Newport News region even as President Obama won his district. Rigell says he was able to do that by advocating for bipartisanship in Washington and holding events in minority communities that often don’t hear from Republican officials.

“Part of it is just showing up, going to places that are atypical for Republicans to show up.”

Rigell says branching out also broadens his perspective as a lawmaker.

“This is very helpful to me as a public servant, to help see these challenges that our country faces through a different prism.”

One of the big tests for the G-O-P will be the upcoming debate on immigration reform in Congress. The R-N-C report says the party needs to win over Latino voters by helping pass

“The phrase “comprehensive immigration reform,” it does mean different things to different people. And so, to get into that in any depth, you’d have to sort of unpack that and say, what do you mean by that?”  

And Congressman Griffith says he opposes amnesty, but is open to reforming the immigration system.  

“Heck, we ought to stick with our brand. Our brand is that we want to cut out some of these regulations, and we could do the same thing with immigration in my opinion.”

The next election is the midterm in 20-14, but the real test for the G-O-P will be the next presidential contest. And all eyes are expected to be on purple Virginia once again.