Voices from Texas on the Future of the G.O.P.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Legislators gathered here in the Texas State Capitol on the eve of the next Legislative session. For conservatives it was a mixture of feelings about what just happened last November. Here's what the head of the Texas Republican Party Steve Munistieri had to say: “If only men had voted, Romney would be president. He won the male vote 52-45. That's pretty significant."

He's done the numbers nationally, as well as state-wide, and while he says the November election brought lots of good news for the GOP in Texas, nationally it was a debacle. For the head of the party, 2012 looked more like a head wound, and Munistieri says it was self inflicted: "But when you lose the female vote 55-44 and women turn out in a significantly higher number, I think you have to look at that. I would just sum it up like this: bad campaign.”

Steve was one of a group of people gathered to talk about lessons from 2012 here in Austin. Brad Bailey is a conservative businessman who champions immigration issues. He says from the campaign software to the political message, the GOP needs a fresh approach.

“You know, we've go to look at a totally different software program and development program to go after the youth vote and connect, because some of the greatest leaders have come up from College Republicans. Get those organizations working hard with us.”

Outgoing Republican state legislator and former Democrat Aaron Pena told the group of Conservative activists that it was a combination of bad campaign and bad campaign, at least for his constituents, who generally have no problem voting for the GOP.

“Romney, I will tell you back home, was a very tough sell. Especially when he started talking about issues that were a primary concern to my community. We need to have people who talk about the issues that matter to ordinary people — messaging geared towards winning primaries — wound us to such a degree that when it comes to a general election, it's very difficult to win."

 Very difficult, and as far as Hispanics and Latino voters were concerned this year, the numbers were impossible. Aaron Pena said that hurt:

“You know when someone doesn't invite you to the party, you know that you're not welcome. I will tell you having been raised on the border my entire life, the Hispanic community is not much different from other communities. They want the same measure of respect. The values Republicans stand for, they are there, but we have to till the fields and bring them to fruition."

Conservative activist and Vice President at the Texas Public Policy Forum Joshua Trevino was even more blunt. The message from his own party turned his own tough independent-minded grandma off: “My grandmother wanted to renew her drivers license… She got the idea that she was somehow in danger of deportation if she did not”

She hasn't driven, Trevino said, in 10 years. She just worried about needing ID if she's Hispanic these days. Brad Bailey says the GOP needs to get serious about immigration reform if it wants Latinos to get more serious about the GOP.

“I believe the path to legalization would be a huge step in the right direction but we can't be the party of "deport 12 million people immediately." We've got to make sure that we address that and we don't have the tone like 'illegal alien' and those things that are divisive. But this is a honest conversation that conservatives want to have and need to have.”

And they need to have that conversation at the National level, taking some lessons, Joshua Trevino says, from states like Texas:

“The GOP nationally is very closed to a failed party but at the state level, the GOP is a super majority party. We have 32 state houses at this point. The Republicans are a phenomenally successful party at the state level."

Trevino suggested half seriously that the Republican national committee be abolished and replaced by the Republican governors association. Steve Munistiere wouldn't go that far but he pulled no punches on criticizing the national party.

“The RNC had no one working on outreach, and yet they had 400 employees. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars. I've pointed this out to the RNC. 'Give us a million dollars and you could hire 20 field people and let them work with Hispanic community.' I think that would make a difference. So yes, that is a winning coalition for the Democrats but it could also be a winning coalition for the Republicans and we just need to do our job.”

All of these activists agreed that nationally the GOP is just a few percentage points in some key demographics, and a good, exciting, inspiring candidate away from winning the White House.

Everyone at this meeting in Austin yesterday was wowed by the message from newly elected Republican Senator Ted Cruz who told this crowd his mission was to bust the "party of the rich" brand that has dogged the GOP while being tough on fiscal issues. Senator Cruz told host John Hockenberry is going to play tough with President Obama in the upcoming debt ceiling fight. Turn it into a national debate about responsible government. The first shot, you might say, in the next campaign.


Senator Ted Cruz

Comments [7]

B.A. from New York

All this talk of championing of small business -- what happened to public service? I honestly don't understand the Republican rush to exalt business and low taxes at the expense of services (teachers, garbage collectors, fire fighters, policemen, construction workers) our country desperately needs.

Jan. 10 2013 06:08 PM

What a big piece *** of misinformation. This so called championing of small business is nothing more than a shrill for the corporate hegemony this country is suffering under. This man is not well educated and if he is then he is a perfect example of the failures of the Texas educational system. The state of Texas is one of the poorest and most unequal in the nation. They have their guns and religion and not much else and upward mobility is for the already upward.

Jan. 10 2013 04:23 PM
Jose from Newark, NJ

Ted Cruz his bull-crap story about my dad came from Cuba and did it on .
his own, is total bull-crap. Cuban in this country are treated a million times better than any other spanish people. Automatic residency! If he was from a different spanish country and saw what real spanish people(Cental-South America and Mexicans) go through or what their parent went through, he would not have such high and mighty attitude. I would love to see some of these big mouth try to live in the shoes of this people they would see things differently. Remember Cuban are not spanish unless they are black Cuban.

Jan. 10 2013 03:43 PM
Jon from Manhattan

Notwithstanding the fact that Cruz was born in Canada and therefore ineligible to run for the White House, Cruz was never asked if his minority status was helpful in gaining admission to Princeton or Harvard Law School. This guy is as reactionary as they come.

Jan. 10 2013 03:33 PM
Alfred Jeffries from Providence

All those comments Senator Cruz about small business regulations sound like buzz words for exploiting and mistreating workers and despoiling the environment. It's not a one size fits all world senator!

Jan. 10 2013 03:27 PM
Matt Seidel

I didn't say Ted Cruz hear a single thing different than Mitt Romney. I'm sorry, but it just didn't sell the first time around. The GOP needs to move to the center if they want to stay relevant.

Jan. 10 2013 03:22 PM
Angel from Miami, FL

We started off with conservatives talking about how to fix the GOP and we finished with a guy who hit the rewind button with the standard Republican platform speech. Then we closed it off with probably the most neutral statement that has ever been spoken/written: "...nationally the BLANK is just a few percentage points in some key demographics, and a good, exciting, inspiring candidate away from winning the White House."

Sometimes in the middle of a broadcast I will stream music over the NPR announcer of the hour. (Except that Terri Gross - who never says anything remotely similar to the quote above.)

Jan. 10 2013 10:38 AM

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