The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

January 25, 2014

RNC showcases update, but image problems remain

WASHINGTON — The dueling faces of a conflicted political party were on display for all to see at the just-concluded Republican National Committee meeting.

One was younger, more diverse and tech-savvy, part of the RNC's carefully crafted plan to inspire confidence that the GOP is trying to grow beyond its shrinking, older, largely white base. The other — one that hasn't evolved since the GOP's back-to-back presidential losses — lurked in the hallways, occasionally taking center stage at the Washington hotel where party delegates from around the country met to discuss party business.

The reminder of the divisions comes a year after Chairman Reince Priebus published a report aimed at modernizing the party and boosting its ranks, and as Republicans eye their best chance at taking control of both houses of Congress since 2002.

"If our party doesn't unite, we're never going to win," said Jonelle Fulmer, a Republican National Committeewoman from Arkansas.

Following the recommendations in the Priebus-commissioned autopsy of the GOP's losing 2012 presidential campaign, the national party launched a multipronged strategy a year ago to reach out to younger voters, women and racial and ethnic minorities, groups who sided more heavily with Democrats, especially President Barack Obama.

Yet, awkward comments about contraception and women's reproductive systems and chatter over Michigan committeeman Dave Agema's derogatory comments about gays and Muslims obscured the party's attempt to feature its efforts at last week's meeting.

By the end of the three-day conference, Priebus and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak were calling on Agema to quit, "for the good of the party."

The only other public comment from party officials about Agema came later during a press conference on the RNC's diversity outreach team.

"There's no room in the Republican Party for those kinds of comments," said Jennifer Korn, the GOP's national director for Hispanic initiatives.

Agema released a statement Friday night apologizing for his use of words. But he declined to step down from the committee.

"In retrospect, I acknowledge errors in judgment and how I addressed them, feel badly about the impact this had had on many here in the land I love, and have learned valuable lessons about the requirements and responsibilities that are to be expected and honored by all who are in leadership positions — including myself," his statement said.

The episode created a sharp dissonance with the meeting's official program, which included sessions on the party's organizational investments in digital, data-gathering technology and personnel. That's an area that helped Obama's campaign carry traditional Republican strongholds in 2008 and 2012.

Another sharp contrast occurred when a panel of well-polished women from an array of racial and socio-economic backgrounds discussed the party's up-and-coming leaders, just minutes after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's speech in which he accused Democrats of casting women as slaves to government-sponsored birth control.

Huckabee said Democrats "insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government."

The clash between the RNC leadership's party-broadening goals and the lingering image of a party arguing with itself over tone and tolerance reflects the division that's playing out in Republican congressional primary campaigns across the country.

Despite the competing messages, there still were signs that Priebus' plans were moving forward.

Priebus hired 25-year-old Raffi Williams as national youth political director and tasked him with running a program aimed at identifying Republican-leaning voters. It's similar to an effort begun by the Michigan Republican Party to use Facebook and other online social media to get people to identify like-minded conservatives.

Run by digital media strategist and former advertising executive Chuck Defeo, the project conceivably could help Republicans win close elections.

"We're starting behind the eight ball, but we're building a good machine, and we're doing it across the country from the ground up," he said.

Alex Smith, 24, said Republicans can only gain back the edge they had with young voters they narrowly held in 2000 by updating the language and the tools that they use to reach her and her peers.

"Channels and messages matter," the Seton Hall University law school student and chairwoman of the College Republican National Committee said. "If you're talking to younger voters on television, radio or direct mail, you're not reaching them."

Yet, outside the ballroom, RNC members murmured about the status of Agema, whose Facebook posting earlier this month had criticized Muslims for not contributing anything to the country.

"Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?" he asked in the final passage of the piece, which Agema had copied from another author.

Months earlier, Agema had referred publicly to "filthy homosexuals" and posted the Facebook piece days before GOP Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder subtly chided him during his annual address: "We've had people make comments that were derogatory, that were negative toward other people, and publicly tonight I'd like to make a call to all citizens of Michigan to ask us to have a greater degree of civility and respect."

Still, before the RNC meeting, neither Snyder nor GOP Senate candidate and RNC member Terri Lynn Land had joined Republican House members from Michigan to suggest Agema resign from the committee.

Land called for him to step down after the Priebus and Schostak statement.

Priebus was one of the few at the meeting who called for Agema's resignation. Even authors of the report he commissioned wouldn't go that far.

"We were very clear we need to be more inclusive," said Zori Fonalledas of Puerto Rico, one of the five authors.

"That is an issue for his state," said Henry Barbour, a Mississippi committeeman who, like Fonalledas, helped write the report.

Annette Teijerio, a RNC member from Nevada, said Priebus and Schostak were right to ask Agema to quit.

"There's a perception that Republicans are anti-Hispanic," she said. "Whatever it takes to dispel that perception, so be it."

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • Oklahoma police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • US existing home sales rise for 4th straight month

     Sales of existing U.S. homes rose for the fourth straight month in July to their highest level in nearly a year, the latest sign that the housing recovery is picking up after stumbling at the start of the year.

    August 21, 2014

  • Aid group: US doctor who had Ebola has recovered

    At least one of the two American aid workers who were infected with the deadly Ebola virus in Africa has recovered and was to be discharged Thursday from an Atlanta hospital, a spokeswoman for the aid group he was working for said.

    August 21, 2014

  • Holder bringing personal perspective to Ferguson

     Eric Holder talks about the nation's civil rights struggles in a way no previous U.S. attorney general could — by telling his own family story.

    August 20, 2014

  • Senate control could rest with well-funded women

    Control of the Senate could lie in the fortunes of female candidates and the deep-pocketed donors, like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who are sending piles of cash their way.

    August 20, 2014

  • Iraq forces retake Mosul Dam; militants deny claim

    Boosted by two days of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces on Monday wrested back control of the country's largest dam from Islamic militants, a military spokesman in Baghdad said as fighting was reported to be underway for the rest of the strategic complex.

    August 18, 2014

  • US stocks open higher; Family Dollar jumps

     U.S. stocks are opening higher, following gains in Europe.

    August 18, 2014

  • Federal autopsy ordered in Missouri teen's death

    Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes-violent protests in suburban St. Louis.

    August 17, 2014

  • news_missingamish.jpg Official: Amish girls sexually abused in abduction

    Two young Amish sisters were sexually abused after their abduction from a roadside farm stand in northern New York, a prosecutor said Saturday.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine [Duplicate] Ukraine says troops entered rebel-held city

    Ukraine's government said Sunday that separatists shot down a Ukrainian fighter plane after army troops entered deep inside a rebel-controlled city in the east in what could prove a breakthrough development in the four-month long conflict.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Okla. Policeman Accused of Sex Assaults on Duty Raw: Egypt Bus Crash Kills at Least 33 Two Bodies Found in Adjacent Yards Dominican Republic Bans Miley Cyrus Concert Raw: Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Raw: Rescue Efforts Suspended at Japan Landslide Raw: Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in Malaysia Raw: Smaller Marches in Ferguson Marathon Suspect's Friend Pleads Guilty Attorney: Utah Eatery Had Other Chemical Burn Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer Ky. Firefighters Hurt in Ice Bucket Challenge Federal Investigation Will Look at Use of Force Community Deals With Michael Brown Aftermath US: We Do Not Pay Ransom to Terrorists Ferguson Teachers Training to Deal With Trauma Jon Hamm on the Unrest in Ferguson Tit for Tat? McDonald's Shuttered in Moscow Life on the Professional Video Game Circuit
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium