RNC announces $10M plan to beef up Republican outreach

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(CNN) — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced Sunday the organization will spend $10 million on hundreds of staff workers to communicate conservative principles in cities across the country.

As part of its conclusion from a months-long “autopsy” of the GOP – to be formally announced Monday – the RNC will also work to shorten the primary calendar, limit the number of debates in presidential primaries, and move up the party’s convention date.

In the outreach portion of the plan, Priebus said, the RNC will pay people “from coast to coast in Hispanic, African-American, Asian communities” to talk about the GOP brand.

“(They’ll be) talking about what we believe in, going to community events, going to swearing-in ceremonies, being a part of the community on an ongoing basis … make the case for our party and candidates,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Following the Republican Party’s presidential loss and significant Senate losses in the 2012 election, the RNC conducted a major self-analysis of the party, seeking ways to improve its messaging.

Demographics have also been at the center of the GOP’s makeover, after exit polls revealed that President Obama won overwhelmingly among minority voters.

In its self-assessment, the RNC heard from more than 50,000 people – by phone, polling or through focus groups. One of the major points that emerged, Priebus said, was that the party needed branding and marketing not just during election seasons, but year-round. He said the plan to get more engaged in various communities includes a commitment to make more visits to historically black colleges and tell the story of the GOP.

“If you’re not in the community, if you’re not talking to people and the level of familiarity isn’t there, then things – silly things like Todd Akin and some of the goofy things that are said – the caricature becomes true if you’re not there.

If we have unscripted moments and you’ve got no relationship to explain anything, obviously, I believe you’re a sitting duck,” he said.

He was referring to Akin’s controversial statement about rape that ultimately derailed the Missouri congressman’s campaign for the U.S. Senate — a seat he was favored to win.

Priebus didn’t say the party intends to change any of its principles or policies, but focused on the way Republicans communicate those messages.

“We have to win the math war, which we do a good job of. But we’re going to have to learn how to win the heart war,” he said “And that’s what, in presidential elections, what is plaguing our party.”

Reshaping the party’s messaging strategy was a common point of self-criticism at this year’s Conservative Political Action conference, which wrapped up Saturday. And House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday the issue with the party has nothing to do with its principles, but the way it gives voice to those ideas.

“We’ve gotta do a better job of helping people understand what our principles are in terms that they deal with every day,” Boehner said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Priebus said another common theme among the 50,000 people questioned was a view that the party was characterized by “stuffy, old guys.”

Priebus said such analysis was “painful to hear” and pointed to some of the rising stars in the GOP, such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Priebus said other upcoming strategies include making changes to the election year calendar, in particular the calendar for debates and primaries. Starting a year and a half before the 2012 election, Republican candidates ultimately participated in about two dozen primary debates over the next 10 months.

Such a long, crowded process hurt the party, he argued.

“While we were playing footsy debating each other 23 times, what was the other side doing? They were spending potentially hundreds of millions of dollars on data, technology, voter outreach. They’re actually getting the job done,” he said.

Priebus said if it were up to him, he would set a beginning date for the primary season of January 1, with the end date at the end of April or mid-May. He even floated the idea of a “regional rotating primary” in which the country would be divided into quarters and each region would hold a primary every two or three weeks.

He would then hold the convention in mid-June or the end of July, adding that he will lead a commission that will look into that date process.

One of the reasons Romney “was a sitting duck for two months over the summer,” Priebus continued, was because he was not allowed to legally use RNC money until he officially became the Republican presidential nominee at the convention during the last week of August.

The chairman, who was re-elected to his position in January, said if the party doesn’t get started on its retooling now, it’s not going to be successful in future elections.

“This is going to be huge,” Priebus said. “And we’re ready to go, and we’re ready to lead.”

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