After suffering unexpected electoral setbacks in the Senate and losing the presidential race, Republican Party officials gathered at their winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C., are exploring ways to rebound and re-build their brand.
Perhaps inspired by the popular, tough-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal used his keynote address Thursday to call out the weaknesses he sees in the GOP and share his vision for the future.
"We seem to have an obsession with government bookeeping; this is a rigged game and it's the wrong game for us to play," he said. "Balancing government's books is a nice goal, but that is not our primary objective. Our objective is to grow the private sector. We must not become the party of austerity. We must be the party of growth."
Jindal, widely expected to run for president in 2016, said Republicans don't need to "abandon, moderate, equivocate or otherwise change" their principles, but must look ahead rather than behind. He repeatedly distanced himself from Washington and said the GOP's electoral strength will come from winning arguments outside the Beltway, not inside.
"We believe solving problems closer to home should be our first, not our last, option," Jindal said.
Criticizing both his party's leadership and specific politicians, he said Republicans need to "stop being the stupid party" and "stop insulting the intelligence of voters."
"It's no secret we had a number of Republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments and I'm here to say we've had enough of that," Jindal said. "We need to trust the smarts of the American people. We've got to stop dumbing down our ideas and stop reducing everything to mindless slogans and tag lines for 30-second ideas."
Jindal's comments are particularly of note because his party re-gained control of the House by campaigning on pocket-book issues and effectively sinking popular opinion on key Democratic achievements such as health care reform ("death panels") and the 2009 stimulus package ("wasteful spending") by using pithy language.
But there's no doubt the GOP is ready for a makeover particularly after losing Hispanic voters, the fastest growing voter bloc, by a record margin. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, in a Friday speech, will reportedly emphasize the importance of inclusion and willingness to compete in hostile territory as critical to "renewing" the party.
"We must compete in every state and every region, building relationships with communities we haven't before," he will say, according to Politico. "We can stand by our timeless principles and articulate them in ways that are modern; relevant to our time and relatable to the majority of voters."
Priebus also seems to have taken the lessons of the 2012 election to heart, calling for more long-term bridge-building with voters, something Democrats did much more effectively.
"Simple 'outreach' a few months before an election will not suffice. In fact, let's stop talking about 'reaching out' and start working on welcoming in," Priebus is expected to say.
But neither Jindal nor Priebus offer specific policy proposals that might attract support from non-traditional Republican voters.
And, like the Democrats in their winter meeting last week, the top Republicans also have taken joy in insulting their rivals and mocking their principles, making it unclear how they can forge inroads into new constituencies.