GOP panel dissects election loss, offers ways to turn tide
By Joe Napsha
Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 12:01 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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