GOP Governors Assess Future Of Republican Party

The Republican Governor's Association is meeting this week in Las Vegas. Republicans lost seats in the House, Senate and the presidential race. But the GOP gained one more state, North Carolina, to put the number of Republican governors at 30. The governors say there's nothing wrong with the party that a few changes around the margins won't fix.

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The Republican Governors Association is meeting this week, in Las Vegas. While Republicans lost seats in Congress and the presidential race, they did pick up one more statehouse in North Carolina, raising the total number of Republican governors to 30. As NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports, the governors are reflecting on what the election meant for their party.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: For a political party that unexpectedly took one on the chin a week ago, the Republican Governors Association is in surprisingly good cheer.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats.

GOODWYN: That's because after talking amongst themselves for most of the day, they've come to the conclusion that there's nothing wrong with the Republican Party that a few changes around the margins won't fix. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal made that case to the gathered association, in the hotel's ballroom.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL: We don't need two Democratic parties. You've heard a lot of commentators now say, well, maybe the Republican Party should abandon its principles, abandon its positions, become a lighter - just another version, a cheaper version of the Democratic Party. I think that would be a huge mistake. I don't think we need to moderate our positions.

GOODWYN: Jindal said the Republican message is fine, but that the candidates need to be more careful about how they deliver it. For example, GOP politicians should make it clear that they care about 100 percent of the vote, not just 53 percent. Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour blamed presidential candidate Mitt Romney's defeat on President Obama's advertisements that unfairly depicted Romney as someone who cared mostly about wealthy Americans. Barbour, too, reassured that the election was not something to fret about.

HALEY BARBOUR: We lost. It's a disappointment, particularly because of the stakes of the election being so high; with this huge difference between the visions of government, of the two candidates of the two major parties. But this was a very close election. Obama won by about 2 points. This is not some collapse on our side, or some runaway by his side.

GOODWYN: While there was talk about the need to attract more Hispanic voters, there was no discussion about modifying the GOP's immigration policies. But if there was one message Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wanted to impart, it was that his party needed to tone down the anti-immigrant rhetoric, and stop demonizing political opponents. But old habits die hard, and in the midst of this discussion about tone, Republican pollster Glen Bolger characterized voters under 30, who are more open to liberal social policies, as lazy.

GLEN BOLGER: Why 18- to 29-year-olds favor socialism over capitalism? That's because in their definition, socialism is, I'm living in my parents' basement ...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (LAUGHTER)

BOLGER: ...'cause I can't get a job, and this is pretty good.

GOODWYN: This is a group of voters Republicans lost badly. And describing them as moochers, is a way of seeing the world that turns some voters off. Republicans are makers; and everyone who's not a Republican, is a taker. This way of seeing things drives Bobby Jindal up the wall, and he said so repeatedly yesterday. But it was also clear he's still swimming upstream, at this point. The notion that President Obama won because America is becoming, quote, "an entitlement society" is widely accepted here.

GOODWYN: Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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