CHARLOTTE — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus outlined an ambitious agenda for the GOP to catch up to Democrats after two straight presidential electoral losses.
"As a party, we must recognize that we live in an era of permanent politics," Priebus said minutes after winning an unopposed election to continue as chairman for another two years. "We must stop living nominee-to-nominee, campaign to campaign."
Priebus' comments reflect a realization by the GOP that they lag generations behind Democrats and the Obama campaign when it comes to field organizing, with the party opening field offices months before elections and Democrats' never closing after the last cycle.
"Now is the time to begin to develop a permanent, national field infrastructure that's granular and based in communities," he said.
Priebus argued that the Republican Party needs to expand its efforts in all states — even Democratic-leaning states, noting the party has seen success at the state-level.
"We have to take our message of opportunity where it's not being heard," he said, calling for a more open and inclusive party. "We have to build better relationships in minority communities, urban centers, and college towns. We need a permanent, growing presence. Simple 'outreach' a few months before an election will not suffice. In fact, let's stop talking about "reaching out"—and start working on welcoming in. Political support is cultivated over time—not collected on Election Day."
Priebus said the RNC's efforts will include more volunteers and paid staff in battleground states.
"You could run a good nine-month campaign. You could run a good one year campaign. They ran a good four year campaign," he said told reporters after his remarks. "And I think that was a big-time learning experience for our party — and a place where we need to be."
He likened the Party's attempts to win elections to "a carnival game."
"Look at our map to 270 — we basically have to hit eight states dead-center bullseye in every single state and if we miss one, we're out," he said. "We can't do that anymore. If we're being honest about it, we have not really won a decisive presidential election since 1988."
The solution, Priebus said, lies in growing the party and becoming "an exciting party that smiles."
"Every vote counts," he said. "The door is open for any person who wants to walk in that door and be a member of this party. We are going to be the party that respects all of our members. As Ronald Reagan said, my 80 percent friend doesn't make my 20 percent enemy."
Priebus' agenda largely reflects the developing conclusions of the RNC's Growth and Opportunity Project which is conducting a formal review of the party's losses — with a greater emphasis on messaging and structural reform and less on policy.
But it's not yet clear how the Republican Party will fund the new field program, which proved to be a massive undertaking for the Obama campaign and later the Democratic Party. Obama shifted his field program to a new non-profit group, Organizing for Action, to allow for unlimited donations to fund his grassroots effort.