LSU Manship News Service
NEW ORLEANS, La. — Democratic pundit James Carville brought journalists, academics and political experts back to his home in Louisiana Thursday during the Bipartisan Policy Summit’s fourth annual Political Summit to discuss how the Republican Party will recover from being pushed to the brink of reform.
A series of panel discussions at Tulane University mostly agreed that the answer lies in restructuring the Republican Party and bringing back voters who left it.
“People are hiding from the Republican Party,” said Politico’s National Politics Editor Charles Mahtesian as the room murmured with laughter, saying many voters who classify themselves as independents, are actually Republicans who are too embarrassed by their party’s image to acknowledge it.
Whit Ayres, Washington political consultant and president of North Star Opinion Research, offered hope to the hundreds of people in attendance who identified as Republicans by telling them that America is still a center-right country.
Women voters are one demographic that Republicans must attract, he said, as they showed up in record numbers during the 2012 presidential election.
“I want to talk about the girls, man,” said Kiki McLean, former senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and global head of public affairs in the Washington office of Porter Novelli. “The election was a big night for women all across the country.”
The panelists agreed the Republican Party will always be defined by a pro-life platform, but it may shift its stances on LGBTQ rights and other women’s issues.
The problem is not only the Republican Party’s stances on women’s health, but also how the party has communicated its beliefs, according to Brett O’Donnell, president of political and corporate communications consulting firm O’Donnell and Associates Ltd.
“Someone said, ‘what happened to the rape guy?’ and someone said, ‘which rape guy?’” said former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. “That’s a problem.” He added that once he heard former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a foreign bank account, he knew it would be problematic in Ohio.
Republicans have accepted their loss well instead of trying to convince voters that mass amounts of voting fraud led to their loss, Mahtesian said. “Republicans took a very clear-eyed look at those election results.”
Other panelists and moderators at the day-long summit at Tulane University included representatives from Twitter, New York Magazine CNBC,BuzzFeed, The Washington Post, the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and NPR.