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Rebuilding the GOP: Can Republicans pitch a bigger tent?

The party must come to grips with the 'demographic realities' reshaping the US electorate and devise new strategies for connecting with growing populations of minorities, single women, and youth.

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / November 21, 2012

Backers of Mitt Romney waited for him to make a concession speech Nov. 7. Since then, many Republicans have argued that the GOP needs to reimagine itself.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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With a rainbow coalition of voters propelling President Obama to a decisive Electoral College victory in which all but one battleground state turned blue, election night 2012 was a wake-up call for many Republicans. Now, the GOP is beginning to delve into a long and likely divisive period of self-examination over what it can do to right itself with a rapidly changing America.

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The consensus among many top Republican strategists and politicos, from Karl Rove to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to Sen. Marco Rubio is this: If the GOP can't rebuild a foundation more welcoming to key subsets of the electorate, it runs the risk of being shut out of the White House for good.

"Our party needs to realize that it's too old and too white and too male, and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it's too late," Al Cardenas, head of the American Conservative Union, told Politico after the election. "Our party [has] a lot of work to do if we expect to be competitive in the near future."

If the goal is straightforward, however, the course is anything but. How does the GOP bridge that waning demographic gap exposed by the election and recalibrate its message to a changing electorate? How does it preach change to a staunch base of party faithful? How does it embrace a more colorful coalition of voters without alienating its fundamental values or its base? These are the difficult – and divisive – questions that the Republican Party will be grappling with for years to come.

But grapple it must, warns Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, "or else [it will be] wiped off the electoral map."

That process begins with diagnosing what, exactly, went wrong Nov. 6. Many party activists interpret the election's close split in popular vote as evidence that the fundamentals of the party are solid. These individuals, including Rush Limbaugh and tea party activist Matt Kibbe, say the problem was the candidate, not the party. If anything, they say, the GOP must become more conservative.

"We wanted a fighter like Ronald Reagan who boldly championed America's founding principles," Tea Party Patriots cofounder Jenny Beth Martin told The Dallas Morning News shortly after the election. "What we got was a weak, moderate candidate, handpicked by the Beltway elites and country club establishment."

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