Conservatives in Crisis? GOP Reaches Out
Some Republicans are trying to put a new face on the party to broaden base.
ARLINGTON, Va., May 2, 2009— -- Some Republican leaders today launched what they are calling a "conversation with America."
It was the first of several events planned as part of a new movement they're calling The National Council for a New America. The event drew some of the biggest names in the GOP, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
But it felt less like a town hall meeting and more like a therapy session for conservatives in crisis.
Audience members packed into a small pizza joint in Arlington to listen and to be heard.
Brian Summers, a Republican voter, expressed some universal frustrations with the party.
"We gotta give Americans something to say yes to," he said. "We should stand strong and stay faithful to what we firmly believe and go forward but have a message that includes all Americans."
To which Romney replied: "Well, all I can say is, Amen."
But recently, the GOP has been saying a lot of "no," which hasn't been good for the party's image.
There was unified opposition to President Obama's stimulus plan. And when conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said earlier this year that he wanted "Obama to fail," those remarks were met with raucous applause at a conservative conference.
Now a group of Republicans are trying to re-frame and re-focus the party. Bush said it was time for the party to show some "humility."
"It's time for us to listen first, to learn a little bit, to upgrade our message a little bit and not to to not be nostalgic about the past," the former Florida governor said.
That means moving hot-button social issues like abortion and gay marriage to the side and shifting the focus to health care, education and the economy.
Gerardo Interiano is 20-something Republican voter who says the party has steered off course.
"I think people have lost the trust of the party and I think we need to do everything we can to bring them back and go back to our principles of fiscal responsibility and go back to our roots," Interiano said.