GOP pledges outreach to minorities, women

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — It has become an annual vow by Republican leaders: In the next election cycle, the party will expand its outreach to women and minority voters, two groups the GOP has struggled for years to attract.

With party strategists already looking ahead to 2014, the new chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), repeated the pledge on Thursday.

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“It’s an important priority for me as chairman and for our committee as a whole,” Walden told reporters gathered at the House GOP’s annual issues conference at the pricey Kingsmill resort in Williamsburg, Va.

Hispanics overwhelmingly supported President Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, by a margin of 71 percent to 27. The president won the women’s vote, 55 percent to 44, according to exit polls.

Walden said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) would help efforts to reach out to women and minorities, and he said two other Republicans, Reps. Tom Cole (Okla.) and Markwayne Mullin (Okla.), would head up a similar push for Native Americans.

“We will be building out, further and deeper, into the minority communities,” he said. “We recognize that Republicans have good answers; we just have bad communications, in many cases.

“Obviously, we’ve got to address this,” Walden added.

Yet whether the GOP can avoid the rhetorical missteps that have undermined its support among minority groups and women in recent elections is another question.

Even as he discussed ways that Republicans were mounting a new push to broaden their coalition, Walden faced a number of uncomfortable questions from reporters. One asked why the party was holding a panel discussion on “successful communication with minorities and women” in the “Burwell Plantation” room — named for a slave-owning family.

“First of all, I don’t pick the rooms we meet in,” Walden replied. “I know the Democrats have held their retreats here too, and I assume you’ll go figure out if they ever held their meetings in that same room. I pick the Democrats we’re going to go take out, and that’s my job at the NRCC.”

Next, a reporter asked why three of the participants on the panel were white men.

Walden replied that two other people were later added to the panel: “a woman from CNN” (Ana Navarro) and the event’s moderator, Rachel Campos-Duffy, the wife of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.).

“Somebody can fill you in all the names, but it is more than just three white guys on the panel,” he said.