CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is calling on the Republican Party to "recalibrate the compass of conservatism" as party leaders on Thursday promised fundamental changes to help stave off future losses.
The governor will deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting Thursday night in Charlotte, becoming the latest high-profile conservative from outside Washington to call for sweeping changes inside the GOP. In speech excerpts released earlier in the day, Jindal says the GOP doesn't need to change its values but "might need to change just about everything else we do."
"We do not need to change what we believe as conservatives — our principles are timeless," Jindal says. "But we do need to re-orient our focus to the place where conservatism thrives: in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway."
Hours before the speech, Republican leaders promised to release in March a report, dubbed the "Growth and Opportunity Project," outlining recommendations on party rules and messaging designed to appeal to a rapidly changing American electorate. President Barack Obama's November victory was fueled, in part, by overwhelming support from the nation's Hispanic, Asian and African-American communities.
"Losing is not fun. We want to win," said GOP strategist Sally Bradshaw, who is among five people appointed by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to craft the report.
"I think you're going to see a very renewed, aggressive effort by this party to put on a different face," Bradshaw said. "We are going to go into areas that we do not go into and see folks that we do not see."
Jindal, too, says the GOP is too focused on number-crunching on Capitol Hill and not focused enough on connecting with voters across the nation.
"Today's conservatism is completely wrapped up in solving the hideous mess that is the federal budget, the burgeoning deficits, the mammoth federal debt, the shortfall in our entitlement programs," he says. "We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping. This is a rigged game, and it is the wrong game for us to play."
The comments come a day after the House passed a bill to permit the government to borrow enough money to avoid a first-time default for at least four months, defusing a looming crisis setting up a springtime debate over taxes, spending and the deficit. The House passed the measure on a bipartisan basis as majority Republicans back away from their previous demand that any increase in the government's borrowing cap be paired with an equivalent level of spending cuts.
The Louisiana governor's comments follow criticism from another high-profile Republican based outside Washington who publicly blasted GOP leadership on Capitol Hill: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. One of the party's most popular voices, Christie earlier in the month criticized his party's "toxic internal politics" after House Republicans initially declined to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy. He said it was "disgusting to watch" their actions and he faulted the GOP's most powerful elected official, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Republican officials from across the country are gathering in North Carolina this week to begin shaping a path forward following their party's November shellacking.
GOP strategist Ari Fleischer suggested that his party could learn an important lesson from Democrats on messaging: "Republicans talk policy and Democrats talk people. Republicans can learn a little bit from Democrats on how to make those people connections with our policies."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting Thursday that Republicans also need to develop a sound strategy for confronting the Obama administration, suggesting House Republicans could use hearings to expose waste and promote better ideas.
"A lot of Republicans, frankly, spent the last two years saying, 'Oh, gee, we don't have to do much because after Obama loses we'll work with the new Republican president.' Well, that world ain't there," Gingrich said. "So now they have to make adjustments. They've got to understand that this is a different game."