BY THOMAS BEAUMONT
WASHINGTON -- The Republican Party's image has changed little in the year since GOP Chairman Reince Priebus published his prescription for broadening the party's appeal despite its investment in outreach to the racial minorities, women and gay voters who backed Democrats decisively in 2012.
"The issue that remains an open book for the Republicans is: What is the character of the party?" said Ari Fleischer, a top aide to President George W. Bush, who helped author the report of the "Growth and Opportunity Project. "Are we a more inclusive and welcoming party yet?"
As the Republican National Committee opens its winter meetings here Wednesday, the party is counting on the political geography and expected lower turnout of the 2014 midterm elections to give them control of the Senate. If that happens, Fleischer said, it would be a "false narcotic" for the larger problems facing a party that has lost the national popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Those will take years to fix.
Since losing the 2012 presidential election, Republicans have continued to slip in public approval. According to a recent Gallup poll, 32 percent have a favorable opinion of the GOP now, compared with 43 percent immediately after President Barack Obama's re-election. Democrats were viewed favorably by 42 percent, also down from a year ago.