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GOP roadmap calls for immigration reform, outreach to minority groups

By Steve Peoples

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 18 2013 3:02 p.m. MDT

In this Sunday, March 17, 2013, photo provided by CBS News, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks on CBS's "Face the Nation" in Washington.

Chris Usher, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee formally endorsed immigration reform on Monday and outlined plans for a $10 million outreach to minority groups — gay voters among them — as part of a strategy to make the GOP more "welcoming and inclusive" for voters who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012.

In a report released Monday, the RNC says that the way the party communicates its principles isn't resonating widely enough and that focus groups perceive the party as "narrow minded," ''out of touch" and "stuffy old men."

"The perception that we're the party of the rich unfortunately continues to grow," Reince Priebus, the RNC chair, said in a Monday morning speech.

To broaden its appeal, the party must reach out to minority voters and others, according to one recommendation in the report: "We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party's appeal will continue to shrink," it said.

Acknowledging the tough road ahead for some immigration reform in a divided GOP, Priebus after the speech refused to say whether "comprehensive immigration reform" should include a pathway to citizenship and distanced himself from some of the report's recommendations.

"Remember these are recommendations made to the RNC. This is not my report," he said.

Party leaders have crafted dozens of recommendations following a months-long self-examination prompted by last year's painful election losses. The report also calls on Republicans to take a harder line with corporate America, loosen political fundraising laws in Washington and in state capitals, and cut in half the number of candidate debates in a shortened 2016 presidential primary calendar.

"When Republicans lost in November, it was a wakeup call," Priebus said.

The Republican National Committee's shift on minority outreach may be the most visible change in the coming months.

Priebus plans to dispatch hundreds of paid workers into Hispanic, black and Asian communities across the nation by the end of the summer, a $10 million effort meant to rival President Barack Obama's national political machine.

The RNC will also push for a tone of "tolerance and respect" in the immigration debate, create "senior level advisory councils" focused on minority groups, and establish "swearing in citizenship teams" to connect with new voters immediately after swearing-in ceremonies.

"We need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case," the report says. "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too."

The recommendations will not be well received in all corners of the Republican Party.

Some Republicans, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio among them, are working toward bipartisan immigration reform that is likely to include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants — sometimes called "amnesty." Conservative commentator Ann Coulter ripped the idea in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend.

"If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election," Coulter said.

A veteran Republican strategist and one of the report's authors, Sally Bradshaw, acknowledged Monday that there would be opposition within the party, but said "other Republicans are starting to step up."

"There is not an easy path for this," she said. "These are difficult recommendations."

The RNC's recommendations follow an extensive look at what went wrong in 2012.

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