In March, the Republican Party released a 97-page report on its future prospects that chairman Reince Priebus had commissioned following the 2012 election. The party called the study its Growth and Opportunity Project report, but most members of the politerati referred to it as an autopsy. The hard-hitting study -- authored by Henry Barbour, the nephew of former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, former Bush II press secretary Ari Fleischer, and a few other prominent GOPers -- fingered what had gone wrong for the Rs and provided a road map for the coming years. But the party's recent excursion into the government shutdown/debt ceiling quagmire shows that few members of its national wing absorbed the lessons the party's coroners had assembled.
After convening in-depth focus groups of voters in Iowa and Ohio who used to call themselves Republicans, polling Republican Hispanic voters, consulting assorted pollsters, and surveying political practitioners at the local and national level, the group made some obvious conclusions. Noting the nation's changing demographics, it maintained that the GOP had to reassess its relationship with Latinos: "If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence." Ditto concerning young voters: "A post-election survey of voters ages 18-29 in the battleground states of Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and Colorado found that Republicans have an almost 1:2 favorable/unfavorable rating. Democrats have an almost 2:1 favorable rating." And the members of the GOP's morgue brigade asserted that GOP governors had been doing a better job in promoting a positive image of the party than congressional Republicans. The party's "messaging," they observed, was hurting it.