Share This Page

GOP panel dissects election loss, offers ways to turn tide

| Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 10:20 a.m.

The Republican Party must do a better job of spreading its messages of economic and political freedom to nontraditional supporters and less-informed voters, while not compromising its basic principles if it wants to avoid another election loss like it suffered in November, a panel of GOP supporters and activists said Thursday in Murrysville.

While 40 percent of America probably agrees with the Republicans and only 35 percent support the Democratic Party, it is the other 25 percent of the electorate that the GOP has not been effective in reaching, said Mark Harris, a 28-year-old Republican Party consultant from Mt. Lebanon.

Speaking to more than 450 GOP faithful who packed the Franklin Regional Middle School auditorium, Harris was among a group of six panelists who dissected the party's loss to Obama and offered recommendations on how the GOP can win contests.

“I think we are in a very dangerous place. We're not in the minority community. They think the Republican Party hates them,” said Harris, who managed Sen. Pat Toomey's successful 2010 election campaign.

President Obama did an excellent job of appealing to the minorities and those who felt that the rich should pay more taxes, which rival Mitt Romney opposed, Harris said.

“We need to oppose their (Democrats') policies, but we have to think about what we are saying,” Harris said.

Christine Toretti of Indiana County, a national Republican committeewoman, offered a stinging assessment of the party's outreach efforts to sway minorities to vote for the GOP — “five white guys in suits” making calls to minorities.

Toretti said that Republicans have policies that should appeal to minorities, but they have not done a good job of getting the message across.

”We have a messaging problem more than a message problem,” said Ruth Ann Dailey, a newspaper columnist.

St. Vincent College professor Bradley Watson, director of political and economic thought at the Unity school, said the Republican Party can no longer be a party of just opposing Obama's policies. The party has to project optimism.

“We have to be the party of freedom, not the party of business,” Watson said. “We are the party of freedom to work.”

Watson said the election was a test case for the theory that voters are concerned only about the economy.

“Barack Obama reached out to a slim, but working coalition of interest groups for whom his message was appealing,” and won the election, Watson said.

The liberals and mainstream media have been successful in framing the conservative message to voters, to the detriment of the GOP, said Rose Tennent, co-host of the popular “Quinn and Rose” syndicated radio talk show.

“It's a work of fiction. Their story is the only one being told and being heard,” Tennent said.

The Republican Party lost the culture war “because we refused to engage in it outside of politics,” Harris said.

The forum was sponsored by the Republican Party committees of Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.