RNC chairman stakes his legacy on winning over minority voters

RNC Communications - March 4, 2013

Reince Priebus is staking his legacy as Republican National Committee chairman on improving the party's performance with minority voters.

“I just sort of reached a boiling point on the issue,” Priebus told The Hill in an interview at RNC headquarters on Friday. “I want to fix these problems.”

In the 2012 election, President Obama won 93 percent of the black vote, 71 percent of the Hispanic vote and 73 percent of the Asian vote, helping him coast to a victory over Republican Mitt Romney.

As the first black president, Obama’s success with black voters is no surprise, but the rising margins he won with all three demographics is a warning sign for the GOP. Obama only won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008 and 62 percent of the Asian-American vote.

Democrats are already whispering about how demographics could quickly turn traditionally red states like Arizona and Texas blue. Asians and Hispanics are the fastest-rising electoral groups in the country.

Priebus says he plans on being remembered as the Republican chairman who changed things for his party.

“Our legacy is going to be that we were the RNC that actually turned the talk into action and cared most about moving the dial, not a couple of good stories that we could spin out and have a few good days here and there, but have a long-lasting change for the future of our party and our country,” he said in an interview.

Priebus spoke shortly after an RNC event saluting “black Republican trailblazers” at the Capitol Hill Press Club. Speaking to a room full of predominantly black businessmen, community leaders, party activists and dignitaries, Priebus said he was committed to “building long term, lasting, genuine, and authentic relationships” in places where the Republican Party “just hasn’t been.”

“We’re here because we know we need to grow our party,” Priebus told the group. “We must take our message to every neighborhood and every community, and as we know, we’ve got a lot of ground to make up with the black community.”

The chairman argues that by appealing more to minority voters, Republicans can broaden the electoral playing field. Right now, he says the GOP is too dependent on running the table in a handful of states.

“We’re competing in eight states, and the game is, you have to hit the bulls-eye in those eight states, and if you miss one you’re out of the game,” he said. “That’s a ridiculous path that we’ve developed and we can’t get there without growing our party.”

The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project is taking a two-pronged approach in addressing these challenges – one that focuses on micro-targeted community-based outreach, and one that communicates a more positive broader message that voters can connect with emotionally.

On the grassroots side, Priebus acknowledged that “our contacts are lousy,” and that for too long the party has executed a “get out the vote effort four months before the election,” while Democrats have cultivated long-term relationships at the local level.

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