WASHINGTON – In 2010,New Mexico elected Republican Susanna Martinez as the state’s first female governor. But in 2012,President Barack Obama won her state with almost 53 percent of the vote.
In Virginia,Republican Bob McDonnell won his 2009 race for governor with 59 percent of the vote. Obama took his state in both 2008 and 2012,with 53 percent the first time and 51 percent the second.
The same goes for Michigan,where Republican Rick Snyder won his 2010 gubernatorial bid in a near landslide. His party also controls both houses of the state legislature. Still,the Michigan hasn’t gone red in a presidential election since President George H.W. Bush ran in 1988.
It is,as GOP leaders describe it,a tale of two parties. On the states front,Republican gubernatorial candidates have seized notable victories in both elections and legislation.
But leaders acknowledge the federal wing is slowly self-destructing as they continue to ignore a changing electorate.
That analysis was a recurring theme in a 100-page report released Monday by the Republican National Committee examining the party’s campaign strategy ahead of the next year’s midterm election and the 2016 presidential election.
Their warning to Republicans is reminiscent of Cassius’ most famous speech in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The fault,dear Brutus,is not in our stars but in ourselves,that we are underlings.”
The report says the party’s gubernatorial wing is successful.
“The other,the federal wing,is increasingly marginalizing itself,and unless changes are made,it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future,” the report says.
To build rapport with minority,young and female voters,the RNC plans to spend roughly $10 million this year sending ground workers to launch a grassroots rebranding campaign. The report also advocates shifting party money toward canvassing efforts,leaving funding for TV advertising up to third-party donors such as super PACs.
“The perception of that we’re the party of the rich unfortunately continues to grow,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters at a breakfast meeting Monday,when he announced the initiative. “For too long,our demographic inclusion efforts have been separate from our on-the-ground political activities. Well,that’s coming to an end.”
The RNC also proposed moving the Republican National Convention from August to June – a major structural change that would cut short the primary season,giving the Republican presidential nominee two months more exposure than the Democratic nominee.
In theory,the schedule shift would give the GOP’s pick more time to spend general election dollars,which could help wealthier candidates such as Mitt Romney,and quell interparty fighting.
“In Romney’s case,he has more money to spend after the nomination,so that could have helped him,” Rep. Louie Gohmert,R-Texas,said in an interview Tuesday. “But then again one of Mitt Romney’s problems,despite being one of the most philanthropic men to ever run for president,he was on video on both sides of so many issues. That was a bigger problem.”
Even so,political experts say many forces that make up voters’ minds are purely chance,such as the economic landscape during an election and incumbents’ advantage.
“Republicans have work to do,” said James Ceaser,an elections analyst at the University of Virginia. “I see elections somewhat differently – you run against the other party,but you also run against reality.”
The timing of election cycles themselves could also explain the difference in success for Republicans.
For instance,many Republican governors rode in on the same 2010 wave that ousted the House Democratic majority. Ceaser pointed out that McDonnell won Virginia in 2009,when public opposition to the Affordable Care Act started to swell.
Furthermore,many governors come from modest backgrounds – at least compared to,for instance,the CEO of a major financial services firm – making it easier for voters to connect with them.
“A lot of them aren’t rich,” Ceaser said. “It was a hard thing Romney had to do.”
Still,politicians on both sides insist,at least publicly,that winning comes down to one main thing: message.
“That fact of the matter is the American people are very smart,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer,D-Md.,said at a press briefing Tuesday. “They don’t understand all the specifics,but they understand the message. They understand when you’re saying 47 percent of the people don’t count.”
Reach Reporter Ian Kullgren at I[email protected] or 202-326-2143. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire