GOP crafts new image as it hustles Mitt Romney out the door

All the Republican Party needs to recover from its presidential defeat is a new message, a new image, and some fresh faces. And usher Mitt Romney offstage. That's it. Piece of cake.

Charlie Neibergall/AP
Patty Cownie of Des Moines, Iowa, talks with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., during Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's annual birthday fundraiser Saturday in Altoona, Iowa.

All the Republican Party needs to recover from its defeat in the presidential election is a new message, a new image, and some fresh faces. That’s it. Piece of cake.

But first, it must usher out the remembrance of party leaders past. That would be Mitt Romney – who, in fact, has been making it easier for the GOP to do just that.

Echoing his infamous “47 percent” off-the-record comment to big donors during the campaign, he upped that to 51 percent in his post-election remarks (again, to donors) about how Barack Obama had won by purchasing his vote majority with “gifts” to liberal interest groups.

Grapes never seemed so sour, and Republicans were quick to rebuke such blame-gamesmanship.

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“I absolutely reject what he said,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association) said on Fox News Sunday. "We as a Republican Party have to campaign for every single vote. If we want people to like us we have to like them first. And you don't start to like people by saying their votes were bought.”

"We also don't need to be saying stupid things," Gov. Jindal said, referring to controversial comments on abortion by failed GOP Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock (neither of whom did Romney roundly reject). "Look, we had candidates in Indiana and Missouri that said offensive things that not only hurt themselves and lost us two Senate seats but also hurt the Republican Party across the board."

Carlos Gutierrez, who advised the Romney campaign on Hispanic issues and voters, says he was “shocked” by Romney’s most recent comments.

“Frankly, I don’t think that’s why Republicans lost the election," he said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." “I think we lost the election because the far right of this party has taken the party to a place that it doesn’t belong.”

The Associated Press interviewed a bunch of Republican notables, and their message was essentially the same.

Veteran Republican strategist Ron Kaufman, who advised Romney's campaign: "The bottom line is we were perceived to be intolerant on some issues. And tone-deaf on others."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who ran against Romney in the GOP primaries and caucuses: “We were clearly wrong on a whole range of fronts…. There are whole sections of the American public that we didn't even engage with.”

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who chaired the party during the 1990s: "We've got to have a very brutally honest review from stem to stern of what we did and what we didn't do, and what worked and what failed.”

Kevin McLaughlin, a Republican operative who worked on several Senate races: “We need candidates who are capable of articulating their policy positions without alienating massive voting blocs.”

That would be people like Jindal, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who helped himself when he left the Romney campaign to partner with Obama in dealing with superstorm Sandy), Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, and newly-elected US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas would help with Hispanic voters – the fastest growing segment of the US population and a portion of the voting public Romney lost badly.

At the head of that list – and likely among younger Republican presidential hopefuls generally – is Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, He, too, has pushed back against Romney’s “gifts” remark, although more gently and in a way meant to avoid alienating any in the party.

And guess where Rubio turned up last week? Iowa, where the party’s first presidential caucus is held.

“The appearance of the Republican Party’s most prominent Latino face in Iowa – a state President Barack Obama won by six points on Election Day – was no casual drop-by after the drubbing Mitt Romney took among Hispanics nationally,” reports Politico’s Lois Romano, tailing Sen. Rubio on his Iowa trip. “Republicans are looking to Rubio to help guide the party out of the past in which its base is aging, white men and into the future when it can appeal to young, female and more diverse voters, most crucially Latinos. And the first-term Florida senator is happy to help light the way.”

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