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Republican Governors Seek New Message After Election Loss

November 15, 2012

Republican governors said they’re examining why Mitt Romney lost the presidential race, and that their party needs to deliver their message more effectively.

At the start of a two-day Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas, state leaders said the loss of the White House and seats in the U.S. House and Senate should lead to discussion about how the party can better appeal to Hispanics and younger voters.

“This election is a wake up call,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told reporters at the meeting yesterday. “There is going to be a period of introspection where we discuss what went wrong.”

Jindal and other governors said the party’s message wasn’t articulated clearly enough during the presidential campaign. Governors said they’re optimistic about the party’s future, noting that they’ll hold 30 governorships next year, the most since 2000, after the party won the North Carolina governor’s office from Democrats on Nov. 6.

“Overwhelmingly in the states our citizens are choosing Republican governors,” said Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell at a news conference yesterday in Las Vegas. “We hold 60 percent of the states, representing 180 million people.”

Jindal, who will serve as head of the governors group next year, called on the Republican party to modernize without becoming more like Democrats. He said at a panel discussion that “significant changes” are needed.

‘Smaller Government’

“It’s not a failure of conservative principles -- you look at exit polls in last week’s election and the majority of voters said they wanted smaller government,” said Jindal, who was elected to his second term last year. “However, a majority of voters also said they trusted the Democratic party to cut taxes on the middle class more than the Republican party.”

Jindal said Republicans need to better articulate their position on taxes and change their policy approach on immigration.

“People that want to help build the economy, we should be welcoming those folks,” Jindal said in an interview.

The next Republican presidential candidate should look to the success of Republican governors, said Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

“To have a successful ground game you have to motivate people by ideas,” said Walker, who successfully fended off a recall effort earlier this year. “Our bold agendas, our bold plans to get our states going again -- those are the things that motivated our voters.”

Superstorm Impact

They also said superstorm Sandy hurt Romney’s campaign against President Barack Obama in the days before the election by diverting voters’ attention away from the economy and unemployment.

Haley Barbour, who was governor of Mississippi from 2004 until this year, said the party needs to examine what worked, and what didn’t, in the presidential campaign.

“We can catch up in four years; this isn’t rocket science,” Barbour said. “But it is hard work. We’ve got to give our political organizational activity a very serious proctology exam. We need to look everywhere.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Oldham in Las Vegas at; William Selway in Las Vegas at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at

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