OXON HILL, Md. — After steep losses in the 2012 election, there was broad agreement within the
But a year after the GOP's so-called autopsy report, the speeches from the party's leading voices at the
Heading into the 2014 midterm election, the trends look good for Republicans, largely because things have gone so poorly for the president: His poll numbers have sunk, his
But the long-term challenges facing Republicans were outlined in bracing detail Saturday afternoon at the conference by GOP pollster Whit Ayres. He noted that 2012 Republican presidential nominee
"This is a problem, because Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority group in the country," Ayres told the gathering, noting that those demographic shifts present an increasingly difficult climb for Republicans in states like Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Georgia and North Carolina. Ayres added that Romney won the lowest percentage of the Latino vote of anyone in a two-candidate race since Watergate.
Texas Republicans like Gov.
Still, over the three-day gathering, immigration reform — which has stalled in the Republican-controlled house — was too politically perilous to warrant even a mention from many of the top contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination.
The party's antiabortion stance, which has alienated moderate women voters, came up in nearly every speech by the major 2016 candidates. It was a central focus for New Jersey Gov.
The conference's two most prominent female speakers were 2010 California Senate candidate
The conference draws a self-selecting but powerful group of activists within the GOP who are likely to dominate the 2016 contests in early states. Yet the continuing search for a strategic message and the competing forces within the Republican Party were often on display.
A panel about whether libertarians and social conservatives could get along erupted into a vigorous debate over what the party should say about same-sex marriage. The major panel on immigration featured commentator Ann Coulter, who chided
The 2016 presidential contenders all underscored the need for greater unity, while offering disparate ideas for reaching out.
Closing out the conference Saturday night, Palin said conservatives were on the rise because many Obama voters have been disappointed by the president's healthcare law and his "dopey wobbling on the world stage."
"You know this is the stirring of a great awakening," she said.
In an appeal to female voters, the former Alaska governor said Democrats were treating women like "cheap dates" with a debate over "body parts."
"Honey, that's not liberation — that's subjugation, and this sisterhood fights against that," she said.
But several speakers on an all-female panel Saturday afternoon said that the party had an "optics" problem. "Women think we don't represent them," said author and panelist Kate Obenshain.
Alluding to Missouri Senate candidate
"We cannot have any stupid comments this year," she said. "No stupid comments."