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GOP begins post-defeat soul-searching

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 8:40 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee on Monday announced an inquiry to look at what went wrong in 2012's presidential election and how the GOP can respond to the nation's shifting demographics and adopt smarter political strategies.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus asked a group of five respected party leaders to examine how the GOP can better talk with voters, raise money from donors and learn from Democrats' tactics. Preibus asked the group, known as the Growth and Opportunity Project, to look at how campaigns are best organized and deployed, how they can work with independent groups such as super political action committees, and how the party should approach the 2016 presidential primaries as part of a top-to-bottom review.

“The Growth and Opportunity Project will recommend a plan to further ensure Republicans are victorious in 2013, 2014, 2016 and beyond,” Priebus said in a statement. “The work of the Growth and Opportunity Project will be critical as we move forward as a party and take our message to every American.”

Mitt Romney's loss on Nov. 6 to President Obama left the GOP without a clear leader but with many questions about its future. Exit polls indicated Obama carried female, black, Hispanic and Asian voting blocs. He won among voters under the age of 45 and those who lived in mid- to large-sized cities.

That adds up to a quandary for a party looking ahead at gubernatorial races next year in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as 2014's midterm elections.

“I am excited for the future of the GOP and am confident this project will strengthen our cause tremendously in the coming years,” said Sharon Day, the RNC's co-chairwoman.

Former George W. Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and Sally Bradshaw, a veteran strategist and top adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, are among those leading the inquiry. Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, a GOP strategist and nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, too, will be part of the group. RNC members Zori Fonalledas of Puerto Rico and Glenn McCall of South Carolina round out the five-person committee.

Republican officials said the group would have access to RNC aides and would eventually talk to hundreds of party leaders and rank-and-file voters to better understand how the GOP came up short to Obama. After the election, top Republicans groused that Romney's campaign struggled to communicate effectively with voters, woo crucial demographic groups and break through with a winning strategy.

The party enjoyed major gains in 2010's elections, having the biggest midterm gains since 1938. Yet two years later, the party didn't capture the biggest prize in American politics — the presidency. Despite solid fundraising from the party and quick work from Romney after he won the nomination, the GOP couldn't overcome Obama's on-the-ground advantages.

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