By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Meeting for the first time since the November 6 election, Republican governors took the first steps to repair a broken brand and refocus on a changing America.
They acknowledged that their party has grown increasingly out of step with a broad majority of American voters.
While they remain confident in their beliefs, they said their loss was a result of several factors: Flawed candidates, a problematic message, the alienation of non-white Americans, an outdated technology and a political operation that is no match to that of the Democrats.
Several governors, including Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Chris Christie of New Jersey, hurled harsh words at Mitt Romney for saying he lost the election because of the “gifts” President Obama gave to certain groups of Americans.
In a conference call with campaign donors on Wednesday, Romney blamed his loss in part on “gifts” that a “very generous” President Obama had given to African Americans, Latinos and young people.
According to the Washington Post, it was similar in sentiment to his earlier suggestion — also to a group of wealthy contributors — that 47 percent of the American public consists of government-dependent deadbeats who view themselves as victims.
“I absolutely reject that notion, that description,” Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants, said in reaction to Romney’s comments.
“We need to stop being a dumb party, and that means more than stop making dumb comments,” said Jindal, the incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Christie, who was widely criticized by conservatives for his effusive praise of President Obama during the Hurricane Sandy disaster, said he does not share Romney’s sentiments.
“You can’t expect to be the leader of all the people and be divisive,” answered Christie when asked to comment on the Romney remark in a television interview. “You have to talk about themes and policies that unite people.”
Although he said that he remains friends with Romney, the one-time top surrogate said that the loss may have stung and frustrated Romney too much.
Scott Walker of Winconsin, who survived a tough recall fight, said that “We’re the party that helps people find a pathway to live the American dream. They want to have a chance to live the American dream. They want to have a job.”
In throwing a jab at Romney, Walker said, “It’s not that our beliefs are wrong. We’re not doing an effective enough job articulating those beliefs.”
The need to re-orient and rebuild the party was a major topic of conversation at the governors’ meeting. Among the top concerns was the party’s failure to attract Latinos, the fact that its voter turnout operation did not live up to expectations, its flatfooted response to Obama’s attacks and its misplaced optimism that Romney would win.
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour laid out the need to take an ungentle approach to fixing those problems, the Post reported.
“We’ve got to give our political organization a very serious proctology exam. We need to look everywhere.”
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