ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Last September, Democrats gathered in Charlotte, N.C. to see Barack Obama officially accept their party’s presidential nominee for a second term.
Nearly five months later, the leadership of the Republican National Committee, state GOP chairs and party movers and shakers from around the country have descended on the same city — in the only swing state Mitt Romney won in November — for the RNC’s annual winter meeting.
It comes as Republicans are still in the midst of assessing what went wrong during the 2012 cycle and what Republicans need to fix as the midterm elections and the next presidential contest loom on the horizon.
WHO’S IN CHARLOTTE? Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus, the top brass of the RNC (Political Director Rick Wiley, Communications Director Sean Spicer and others), GOP state chairs, executive directors and national committeemen and women from around the country — more than 160 in all.
Also more than a few Republican operatives and strategists like former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who has stepped in to help the party re-tool its communications efforts, and party elders like Newt Gingrich who is leading a Thursday afternoon session on messaging.
“Think of Newt as a guy who saw firsthand where the party went wrong in 2012 and is working to make sure it never happens again,” a Gingrich aide told ABC News.
THE BIG DRAW: BOBBY JINDAL: The centerpiece of this year’s RNC’s winter meeting will be a keynote address Thursday night by Louisiana governor — and potential 2016 presidential contender — Bobby Jindal. He is also the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and he has not been shy about expressing his disappointment with some Republicans, including Mitt Romney, for their mis-handling of the GOP message in 2012.
“The Republican Party must become the party of growth, the party of a prosperous future that is based in our economic growth and opportunity that is based in every community in this great country and that is not based in Washington, DC,” Jindal plans to tell the GOP leaders tonight, according to excerpts of his remarks.
Jindal is scheduled to deliver his speech at 7 p.m.
THE SOUL SEARCHING: After the November election, Chairman Priebus launched what he called the “Growth and Opportunity” project, which is an effort to chart a new course for the party going forward. The project, which is not complete, is split into eight subject areas, according to Bloomberg News’ John McCormick:
- Campaign strategy and ground game
- Third-party groups
- Campaign finance
- The presidential primary process
- Lessons learned from the Obama campaign and Democrats
THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: No small amount of Republican hand-wringing about Mitt Romney’s loss last November has focused on the GOP’s shortcomings in the area of technology and digital strategy. That’s why it’s no accident that attendees are getting lessons from representatives from companies like Google, Facebook, AOL and Eventbrite. And seeing an opportunity to take advantage of the concern that the party still lags behind Democrats in this area, more than a few Republican digital consultants are also on hand in Charlotte looking to network and make deals.
THE RETURN OF REINCE: Reince Priebus, the 40-year-old Wisconsin native who was elected chair of the party in 2011, did not preside over a period that saw a winning Republican presidential candidate, but he did lead his party out of a deep hole of debt — more than $20 million left by former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. And he’s earned the respect of the vast majority of his fellow committee members.
He is up for re-election on Friday and is expected to win easily. Mark Willis, a little-known Republican National Committeeman from Maine and former Ron Paul supporter, has announced he is planning to challenge Priebus, but his bid is unlikely to go very far.
THE PERMANENT CAMPAIGN: Chairman Priebus plans to address the RNC meeting on Friday and one of his big themes will be about how Republicans need to stay on a campaign footing at all times.
“Simple outreach’ a few months before an election will not suffice,” Priebus plans to tell the gathering, according to excerpts of his remarks. “In fact, let’s stop talking about ‘reaching out’ – and start working on welcoming in. Political support is cultivated over time — not collected on Election Day.”
THE OTHER BIG THEME: DIVERSITY: It’s one of the top buzzwords at this year’s RNC gathering, and listed on the official agenda for the meeting is a strategy session on “outreach to African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and women.”
In his speech on Friday, Chairman Priebus will issue this call: “To those who have left the party, we want to earn your trust again. To those who have yet to join us, we welcome you—with open doors and open arms.”