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Insiders Diagnose the GOP's Woes

February 3, 2013

There was no shortage of opinions among National Journal's Political Insiders about what was ailing the Republican Party after losses in last year's elections, although Insiders of different stripes tended to have different takes.

Six out of ten Democratic Insiders pegged "policy prescriptions" as the area in need of the most improvement, while Republican Insiders were far more divided, with messaging, the need for more charismatic leaders and better policy prescriptions all popular answers.

Which one of the following would you say is the area in which the Republican Party needs the most improvement?

  Democrats
(106 votes)
Republicans
(90 votes)
Message 21% 33%
Charismatic leaders 1% 23%
Policy prescriptions 57% 21%
Better campaign technology 2% 6%
Other 20% 17%

"The GOP needs a clearer explanation of why its policies promote economic growth better than Democratic policies do," one Republican Insider said.

"A positive message that is relevant today, not 20 years ago," another added. A third agreed: "Need to start talking about who we are rather than who we are not."

"We hate Obama is not a message," a Democratic Insider chimed in.

Several also mentioned the importance and urgency of the GOP learning to attract new constituencies if it hoped to remain relevant.

"Until Republicans understand that they not only communicate, but also legislate, in a way that repels women, minorities, immigrants and gays, they will continue to lose vote share," one Republican said.

"The Republican policies alienate minorities, young people and legal immigrants. If the policies don't change, the election results won't change," a Democrat agreed. A second noted that, "They increasingly fight for and care about matters that are important to a shrinking angry white male minority of the population."

A few Republicans also said the party was lacking for charismatic leaders that would show the path forward.

"A charismatic leader figures out the messaging, it's second nature," one GOPer said.

A second said Republicans could take a cue from the other side of the aisle. "Charismatic, unifying leaders-who aren't afraid to stand up to pressures to conform completely. Obama leaves most details to others, but HE rules as the unifying leader-quite a lesson."

"There is no overwhelming presence in the Republican Party which is why Republicans continue to hold Ronald Reagan in such high regard," a third said.

For some Insiders, however, the problems were more fundamental and far-reaching, with no easy fixes.

"You can't tweet/Facebook your way out of trans-vaginal ultrasounds. #govtoutofmybedroom," said one Democratic Insider.

"We live in a complicated mixed economy-the government has to provide infrastructure, defense, and middle class entitlements. The debate is about the mix of guns and butter, and how to pay for it," another added. "Paul Ryan and Sarah Palin are not relevant to this debate."

"They need all but they have become the party of no with no prescriptions and with no solutions. It is a tough sell," a Republican Insider lamented. Another put it more simply: "It's the ideas, stupid."

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