Priebus: ‘Pieces of China’ Need ‘to Be Broken’

Reince Priebus is having an interesting birthday. The Republican party’s post-election search for its soul is far from over, but this morning — Priebus’s first as a 41-year-old — he said that the party is taking substantive steps in the right direction.

In a speech at the National Press Club, Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, introduced reporters to a plan that he believes will help make Republicans more competitive.

Priebus said he plans to spend $10 million on the party overhaul, and hopes the GOP will be revitalized in time for the 2014 elections. And he’s not worried about making the plans public. “Maybe a few pieces of China needed to be broken,” he said.

“To be clear, our principles are sound,” Priebus said. “Our principles are not old rusty thoughts in some book. . . . But the report notes the way we communicate our principles isn’t resonating widely enough. Focus groups described our party as ‘narrow minded,’ ‘out of touch,’ and ‘stuffy old men.’ The perception that we’re the party of the rich continues to grow.”

For a news event that wasn’t explicitly about gay-rights issues, the most-quoted line might end up being Priebus’s comment on how Senator Rob Portman (R., Ohio) changed his stance toward the issue — the RNC head said Portman made “significant inroads” with the gay community when he announced his support for gay marriage, and that his change of heart doesn’t bring his conservative bona fides into question. Priebus added that the senator’s decision would not affect the amount of money he gets from the RNC.

Before Priebus’s talk, members of the RNC that led the inquiry into the party’s struggles made a few comments to reporters. Zori Fonalledas of Puerto Rico argued that the GOP must champion comprehensive immigration reform to court Hispanics. And Glenn McCall of South Carolina said that because of generational differences, the party must make room for those who don’t support Republican orthodoxy on gay marriage.

Priebus and others used the event to roll out a bevy of recommendations: Cut the number of primary debates in half, push the convention from August to June or July, and set up an office in the San Francisco area for Silicon Valley outreach. The party also plans to start recruiting more minority and female candidates and to meet regularly with groups such as La Raza and the NAACP. Inside the RNC, the party will hire a slew of officials to coordinate these efforts.

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