When you think Republican you think issues: limited government, pro-life, anti-tax, strong national defense, family values, etc. When you think Democrat you think personas: blacks, Hispanics, single women, homosexuals, young adults, etc. That’s why Obama ran in 2008 on the narrative of being the first black president (or “the one”), and in 2012 on the phony “war on women” meme.
What did Romney run on? He ran solely on Obama’s failures, but that’s not an issue that’s a complaint. Yes, Reagan famously asked voters in 1980 “are you better off than you were four years ago?” But he still had to give them a credible vision on issues they could vote for and not just against. To this day, decades later, its still those issues Reagan’s presidency is most known for—specifically tax cuts to stimulate the economy and defeating the Soviet Union.
Romney couldn’t win the general election for the same reason all establishment milquetoast candidates have lost since 1976: they failed to inspire their base in the primary which is always a sign they won’t inspire the masses in the general election. It should be simple common sense to anyone with any marketing acumen that if you can’t convince those most likely to buy your product to buy it, you’ll never convince those initially skeptical to do so.
Until Reince Priebus and the other five Republican “leaders” assisting him on this project make first things first – and this case that means principles – they’re either not really serious about winning or incapable of it. Voters, even many Republicans, could care less about voting for a political party brand-name. They also don’t care that you dressed your stink-brick up in pretty pastels, or that you said “pretty please” when you asked them to take that lemon off their hands on social media.
There’s a reason the most noteworthy national Republican election victories of the last 30 years happened in 1980, 1984, 1994, and 2010. It’s because those were the years the GOP did the best job of offering a truly principled contrast to the Democrats, thus framing the election those years around issues and not personalities. The Left tried saying we hated women and minorities those years, too. But since Republicans focused the voters on issues first it never became about personalities.
Right now the average American thinks Republicans hate Obama because he’s black and/or just because he’s a Democrat. Until that changes no amount of addressing the process will change that perception of Republicans. And until Republicans rediscover their principles again, that perception will remain.