Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Friday said the party played into a “caricature” of itself in the 2012 election cycle, citing “idiotic statements” and “biologically stupid things” said by Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates.
“It’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it,” Priebus told MSNBC’s "Morning Joe." “If you go around and you say a lot of biologically stupid things and you poison the well and you create a caricature or you allow a caricature to become reality, you’re not going to win an election.”
Priebus also said GOP outreach efforts haven’t been sufficient enough to overcome the “unscripted” moments of a campaign.
“You come into a presidential election with a massive turnout, a lot of idiotic things said, and you’ve got a party that hasn’t been deep enough in the communities on a permanent basis,” he continued. “So you can’t really play the game of defense when something is said, because if your relationships aren’t authentic enough in those communities you can’t control the damage of an unscripted moment like self-deportation, or something like that.”
Romney’s remark that illegal immigrations should self-deport was made in a January 2012 primary debate, but it continued to make waves in the fall campaign as President Obama and Vice President Biden used it against him.
Obama ended up winning more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to exit polls.
The remark wasn’t Romney’s only self-inflicted wound. He also commented that 47 percent of Americans see themselves as “victims” who are dependent on government at a fundraiser. His remarks were secretly recorded and then released publicly.
Other GOP candidates also suffered from their public remarks.
Many believed former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) had a good chance of unseating incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in their Senate race, but Akin’s comment that it’s rare for a victim of “legitimate rape” to become pregnant sunk his campaign.
Priebus and the RNC released a report earlier this week that served as an autopsy of the party’s 2012 losses. It said “drastic changes to almost every major element of the modern Republican Party” are necessary if the GOP hopes to remain competitive, and includes
a 219-point plan aimed at revamping the party’s image, electoral strategy and policy emphasis.
Priebus vowed the RNC would embark on a “permanent campaign” at the local level to foster the kind of “authentic relationships” he says have given Democrats the advantage in recent elections.
On Friday, he also bemoaned the party’s “purity tests,” saying it was natural for there to be divisions within the party on wedge issues like gay marriage, but that Republicans can’t afford to exclude those who they might not agree with on 100 percent of the issues.
“You’ve got to make Reagan’s 80-20 rule cool again,” he said. “And that’s just that my 80 percent friend isn’t my 20 percent enemy and we’re not going to grow our party by division and subtraction.”