Trump Defied 2013 GOP Strategy Known As The Autopsy. Was It A 'Failure'? Seven years ago, Republicans wrote a plan for long-term electoral success. Then, President Trump won in 2016 without following some of its key tenets.

Trump Defied The 2013 GOP Autopsy. So Was It A 'Failure'?

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

When President Obama was reelected, the Republican Party put together an autopsy examining how the GOP needed to diversify its support. Well, that report is virtually unrecognizable under President Donald Trump. In many ways, he did the opposite of what was recommended. As Trump seeks reelection, NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben caught up some of the people who wrote that plan to see what they think of the party's future.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: A little less than eight years ago, Republicans were grieving another presidential election loss.

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MITT ROMNEY: I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory.

KURTZLEBEN: Mitt Romney's defeat kicked off a reckoning within the party. As a result, the GOP produced a 2013 report that came to be known as the autopsy, laying out how the party should set itself up for future wins. Nearly eight years later, Senator Romney was marching in opposition to police brutality. He told The Washington Post why.

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ROMNEY: ...Find a way to end violence and brutality and to make sure that people understand that Black lives matter.

KURTZLEBEN: That would seem to put him on the path Republicans laid out. The autopsy told the party to do better outreach to communities of color, as well as women and young voters. In unveiling the report in 2013, then-RNC chair Reince Priebus was frank.

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REINCE PRIEBUS: We know that we have problems. We've identified them, and we're implementing the solutions to fix them.

KURTZLEBEN: Besides recommending outreach to more voters, the report made a major policy recommendation - a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

KURTZLEBEN: Much of that plan seemed to go out the window when Donald Trump ran for president and won, despite losing among nonwhite women and young voters. Today, the autopsy is a window into the GOP's internal divisions. One of the report's five authors calls the report, quote, "obviously a failure." Sally Bradshaw, who has since left politics and the party, declined to speak to NPR. In an email, she added, quote, "my hope is that Trump will lose in November, Republicans will lose the Senate, and the GOP will be forced to rebuild with conservatives focused on the power of ideas."

Republican pollster Whit Ayres says that the GOP just might lose power this year as a consequence of not having followed the autopsy's recommendations.

WHIT AYRES: That's part of the reason why so many rapidly changing demographic states are now in play for the Democrats that used to be solidly Republican.

KURTZLEBEN: Trump found short-term success, he says, but at a cost.

AYRES: For the Republican Party to be successful in the long run, it's going to have to adapt to a changing America, not react against it.

KURTZLEBEN: Importantly, some authors don't see the autopsy as a failure. Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, believes Trump accomplished what the report asked for - in a way.

ARI FLEISCHER: The Trump campaign did what we recommended but did it in a way we did not recommend. Trump's outreach was to expand and grow the party in the direction of blue collar, noncollege-educated voters.

KURTZLEBEN: Fleischer is optimistic that Trump can further expand among nonwhite voters. Exit polls suggest that, in 2016, Trump did better than other recent nominees among Black, Latino and Asian voters, if only barely.

FLEISCHER: When you talk about what Trump said about Mexicans coming here and the wall, even having said those things, he did better than Romney and McCain.

KURTZLEBEN: However, Trump has also continued to say racist things, and many people of color feel targeted by his policies. Another report author, South Carolina RNC member Glenn McCall, points to some of the party's recent successes.

GLENN MCCALL: We've had our best election cycle this year of recruiting more women to run for office and not just at the federal but at the state level as well.

KURTZLEBEN: Overall, though, securing the party's future means at some point winning more of today's young voters. Charlotte Alter is a journalist and author of "The Ones We've Been Waiting For," a book about millennials and politics.

CHARLOTTE ALTER: Trump has never done well with young voters, but the Republican Party was losing young people even before Trump. Trump just kind of made it a lot harder to get those young people back.

KURTZLEBEN: It may mean that judging the wisdom of the report and how important it was whether Trump followed it closely is a question that may not be answered in November but, instead, years from now.

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News.

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