LOS ANGELES — Some U.S. Republican leaders on Wednesday pushed back against a new comeback plan after a poor showing in last year’s elections, saying the party shouldn’t give up its conservative stance on sensitive but core issues like immigration and gay marriage.
The opposition party has been in a fever of self-inspection since President Barack Obama easily won re-election over a Republican candidate whose tough talk about deportation repelled many Hispanic voters.
The new turnaround plan focuses on attracting more young and minority voters to a party whose aging white male image risks looking out of the mainstream. Both groups of voters heavily backed Obama.
But as members of the Republican National Committee met for the first time since the comeback plan came out last month, some gave it mixed reviews and hinted at sticking to their previous positions.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve got to start somewhere – as long as we don’t abandon the platform,” said Republican Joan Reynolds from Alabama.
Some Republican leaders have said the report would alienate the party’s most devout members and cost the party more votes than it gains.
Committee officials said the RNC remains committed to its long-held positions in opposition to allowing immigrants in the country illegally to stay and opposing gay marriage. But last month’s report, based on three months of work by a team of national party strategists, states starkly that the Republican Party has lost the ability to attract voters who disagree.
Former RNC Committeeman Saul Anuzis said the talk highlights tension between state-level party activists who preferred a more conservative nominee for president last year than Mitt Romney and moderates who saw the former Massachusetts governor as a better match for Obama.
“I think that there’s clearly a tremendous amount of frustration in the grassroots for losing,” Anuzis said.
In Washington, Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that Republicans face long odds in connecting with black voters and are often cast as unsympathetic to the needs of blacks and minorities – something he said the party needs to change.
The potential 2016 presidential candidate said in a speech at the historically black Howard University that the Republican party was rooted in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and efforts to rid the South of oppressive laws against blacks. He expressed hope that black voters would be more open to Republicans, pointing to policies promoting economic opportunity and the decriminalization of drug laws.
“Republicans face a daunting task. Several generations of black voters have never voted Republican and are not very open to considering the option,” Paul said.
Obama, the first black U.S. president, received more than 9 in 10 votes from blacks in 2008 and 2012 and strong support among Latinos.
Paul was briefly interrupted during his speech by a young man who unfurled a banner that said the university does not support “white supremacy.” The man was removed from the auditorium.
Many students Wednesday said they didn’t agree with Paul on many issues.
“It could be very intimidating. You’re sitting in a room with people who don’t support you for the most part, so I do give him credit for coming,” said Tasia Hawkins, an 18-year-old.
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