GOP Divided Over Whether It Needs Better Outreach, Nominees

The Republican National Committee meets this week in Boston with lots to argue about — if they choose to do so. There's immigration and Obamacare resistance and the 2016 presidential nominating system.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Ever since the last election, there's been all kinds of handwringing among Republicans about what to do next. Losing the popular vote for the fifth time in six presidential cycles has led some party leaders to argue for more outreach to women, younger voters and minorities, all groups that voted decidedly for President Obama. Others have said all the party needs to regain the White House is a better process for choosing its own presidential nominee.

Both points have been made already in the opening hours of the Republican National Committee's annual meeting. It's happening right now in Boston, and NPR's S.V. Date is in attendance and joins me now. And first off, who is meeting there? Is this elected officials or insiders? What's the makeup of the crowd?

S.V. DATE, BYLINE: Audie, this is the Republican National Committee, which means these are the state officials elected from within their own states. These are activists in the state parties, and they come. And several times a year, they take part in these meetings with the Republican National Party to decide their national goals and change the rules if need be and think about how they want to win the coming elections.

CORNISH: Of course, they have a business agenda when they meet, right? But what are their thoughts about how to run the party differently?

DATE: So far, their thinking on this has been condensing the nominating process down from the many months it seemed to last. Last time, down to maybe a couple of months, maybe reducing the number of debates, then maybe streamlining the primary system so that things don't drag out on into the end of spring.

CORNISH: All right. So that's the kind of nuts and bolts stuff. What about some of these more contentious issues, like their outreach to Hispanics and other minorities?

DATE: You're right. That is a much bigger problem, and that is one that's going to consume Chairman Reince Priebus' time for the coming months, if not next couple of years. For example, today, he was talking about the issue of immigration. Now, that's something that most people see is very important for Republicans to get ahead of and to take credit for. That's what Chairman Priebus did today.

REINCE PRIEBUS: We wouldn't even having this conversation if it wasn't for someone like Marco Rubio. I mean - and he's a Republican. And so it took Republicans for us to get to this conversation.

DATE: Of course, he doesn't point out that after Senator Rubio got ahead on this issue, he was quickly hammered by the base of the party. Now, remember, the Republican Party base is predominantly white. It's older, and it's disproportionately Southern, according to both the exit polls last year, as well as the recent polls now. And they simply do not agree with a lot of what immigration overhaul proponents really want to do, which is legalize the 11 million immigrants who are here without documents, make it easier for other immigrants to come in.

And that really gets to the heart of the problem. The Republican leadership knows what has to be done in order to win elections, while the Republican base is largely resisting those exact efforts.

CORNISH: That's NPR's S.V. Date. He's at the Republican National Committee's annual meeting in Boston. S.V., thank you.

DATE: You're welcome, Audie.

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