Tea Party groups warn grassroots activism at risk in RNC proposals

Tea Party groups lashed out Monday against the Republican National Committee's proposals for sweeping strategic changes to the GOP, charging they don't address the root problem facing the party and could even undermine the grassroots-backed candidates that have been so successful in past elections.

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The RNC issued its "Growth and Opportunity Project" report on Monday, a look at the issues that plagued the party in 2012 and how they can be remedied in time for future elections. 

Suggestions in the report ranged from reaching out to untapped minority groups to shortening the presidential primary process.

But grassroots groups see many of the proposals as missing the point. 



"There's not a whole heck of a lot that's exciting me [in the report]," said Brent Bozell, chairman of the Tea Party group ForAmerica. "They are obsessed with identifying problems and solutions from the top-down instead of from the bottom-up."


Bozell said the report essentially codifies the suggestions of the GOP consultant class, a group he railed against during a well-received speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend. 

In particular, Bozell said a proposal to limit the primary season and halve the number of presidential primary debates would act as barriers to grassroots candidates, like rising GOP stars Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

"It's the exact same thing as (GOP strategist) Karl Rove saying they're going to pick candidates. That ensures that establishment candidates are the only ones with a chance," he said. 

Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots, said that the RNC had "failed to promote our principles, and lost because of it" in 2012.

“We don’t need to wait on the RNC to promote our winning principles at places like CPAC, and across the country," she said in a statement to The Hill.

She noted that "the center-right lacks a strong ground game, something the Tea Party Patriots capitalized on in 2010 and ever since."

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Adam Brandon, executive vice president of grassroots group FreedomWorks, said: "I would proceed very cautiously if I were the RNC" when it comes to tweaking the primary schedule.

"I would think the states of Florida and Ohio would have a better idea of when they want to have their primary," he said.

Brandon said he found many of the suggestions in the report stale, as the GOP had been talking about technological changes for years. 

"This is stuff that we've been talking about for a long, long, long time now. It's not so much having the right technology as it is having the right message," Brandon said.

The report suggests that the GOP needs to expand its voters database and improve its polling models, two fronts on which the party was caught off guard by the Obama campaign's superior technological capabilities. 

But Brandon said that the issue is "not so much about having the right technology; it's about having the right message."

There is an ongoing split within the GOP about what that "right" message is. 

Groups like ForAmerica and FreedomWorks feel the party needs to stand for staunchly conservative principles, to better differentiate itself from Democrats. 

But some Republicans say on certain issues — particularly immigration and gay marriage — the party needs to show more openness. 

The RNC report suggests the party should "campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too," and noted that immigration reform is a necessary first step to reaching out to Hispanic voters. 

But on a number of hot-button issues, like abortion and gay marriage, the report offers no specific guidance on how the GOP can revamp its message.

Bozell pushed back against the idea that the party needs to move to the center to appeal to untapped demographics. He said the assumption that the GOP had to be open to more socially-liberal policies to connect was a flawed one.

"Here is a rule of politics which just does not change, ever: When Republicans distinguish themselves from Democrats, they almost always win, and when they don't, they almost always lose," he said.