By Justin Sink - 01/25/13 12:20 PM EST
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned fellow Republicans they "must stop being the stupid party" during a fiery and sharp critique Thursday night at the Republican National Committee's Winter Meeting.
For Jindal, a popular rising star in the party who is thought to be an early contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, that recalibration involves Republicans learning to "stop insulting the intelligence of voters.”
In the address, Jindal outlined at least seven steps that he believes Republicans need to take in order to remain competitive. In a scathing takedown, he accuses the party of "looking backwards" and having an obsession with "identity politics."
"We must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior," Jindal said.
Jindal also said that the GOP must work to reframe its messaging on restricting the size of government.
"We must not become the party of austerity. We must become the party of growth," Jindal said.
He went on to take some not-so-subtle swipes at former Republican nominee Mitt Romney, insisting Republicans "must compete for every single vote — the 47 percent and the 53 percent." He also told RNC Chairman Reince Priebus that he hoped he was not relying on Romney's ORCA voter information system during his reelection bid at the meeting Friday.
But among Jindal's most provocative suggestions was the demand that the GOP needed to "stop insulting the intelligence of voters" — and display more intelligence itself. Jindal's comments seemed targeted squarely at conservative candidates in Senate races whose comments on rape and abortion appeared to torpedo their electoral chances.
"We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments," Jindal said.
The Louisiana governor also warned that Republicans were too associated with "big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes."
"We must not be the party that simply protects the well-off so they can keep their toys," Jindal said. "We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive."
Jindal, who was elected last year to chair the Republican Governors Association, has been among the party's most vocal critics in the aftermath of last year's election, and is likely looking to position himself as a forward-thinking voice as speculation begins to ramp up about 2016.
But his keynote address also served to underscore the theme of the entire Republican retreat, which has been singularly focused on rebooting the GOP brand.
According to excerpts of a speech to be given Friday, Priebus will call on the party to compete in every state across the country and invest in a new technological push. The RNC chairman has also appointed a new committee to solicit grassroots feedback on a path forward for the party.
Republicans face a steep road to recovery. In a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week, 49 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of the party — the highest figure since 2008.
Moreover, President Obama's campaign infrastructure was thought to be technologically and structurally superior on Election Day. Last weekend, Democrats announced plans to keep that organization in place with the creation of a legacy nonprofit group to be led by the president's former campaign manager, Jim Messina.
But Priebus is optimistic that the GOP will bounce back.
"The good news is our principles are sound. We stand for opportunity and for liberty. Freedom is always a new idea — an ever-fresh, revolutionary idea," he plans to say.