WASHINGTON — Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has less than 19 months before his next major test, the 2014 elections, to turn around a party with a tarnished brand, skeptical consumers, revenue challenges and internal divisions.
"Their brand is frozen back in time, and today's voters are not buying it," said Karen Post, an author on rebranding who calls herself a "moderate" Republican. "Consumers have changed. Parties that win reflect contemporary values."
Priebus will conclude two days of meetings Friday in Los Angeles with the equivalent of his sales team — members of the Republican National Committee — for the first time since releasing a report highly critical of the party and its 2012 election efforts. He must convince them to live by the report's recommendations — something that has already proved difficult.
The party's "Growth and Opportunity Project" report, released March 18, called for a more inclusive tone when dealing with those who disagree with the Republican platform on abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Yet, since the report's distribution, two RNC members and a Republican member of Congress have triggered controversies because of rhetoric that didn't follow that recommendation.
Dave Agema, a Michigan RNC member, suggested that being gay is an unhealthy lifestyle as part of his posting on Facebook of another man's article that called homosexuality "filthy." Agema defended the posting as useful at a time that the Supreme Court is considering same-sex marriage cases, a position that has prompted calls for his resignation from some Michigan Republicans and critical statements from others.
"Our party remains in support of traditional marriage but that should never be allowed nor confused with any form of hate or discrimination toward anyone," Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak said in a statement.