While Pennsylvania Republicans search for a modified message to
win the 2014 governor's race and presidential race two years later, GOP voter
Dolly Ripper, 76, has some advice for her party's leaders: Stand firm.
"Don't change your principles," said Ripper, a retiree and widow from Bethel Park.
She wants Republicans to continue, for example, to fight the Affordable Care Act and, in Harrisburg, to continue pushing to sell the state-controlled liquor system.
"Who the hell are they to tell me where I can buy a drink?" Ripper, who drinks wine when she imbibes, said of privatization opponents.
The Republican National Committee, while in Boston Aug. 14-16, explored a range of suggestions to strengthen the party such as beefing up social media usage, reaching out to Latino and black voters and limiting the number of presidential debates.
Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason of Johnstown, who attended the meeting, said he returned buoyed with optimism about applying the concepts when Gov. Tom Corbett faces what's expected to be a difficult re-election campaign in 2014 and a GOP nominee takes on the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016.
"It looks like it'll be Hillary Clinton, hands down," for Democrats, Gleason said. He said he thinks party leaders need to cultivate a "mainstream" image.
Republicans are "clearly diagnosing a real problem for the party, reaching beyond its core, which has not been there in presidential elections," said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. "What is their message? What is their brand?"
It won't be easy making inroads with Hispanic voters, Borick said.
Despite a rapidly growing Latino population in Pennsylvania, they make up about 7 percent of the population. Blacks make up about 12 percent.
"Pennsylvania is a bit whiter than most states," said J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University in Chester.
More than rhetoric?
Just making the effort to reach out to minorities might impress suburban voters "who see the party as increasingly intolerant," said Leckrone.
But, said Abe Amoros, Pennsylvania legislative director of the Laborers' union: "Unless they fully address economic issues and issues of equality, and unless they have a presence in Latino and African-American communities, it's nothing more than rhetoric."
Amoros, a past spokesman for the state Democratic Party whose family is from Puerto Rico, said the Republican Party "has done a terrible job of presenting a path to citizenship" for immigrants.
Though a majority of blacks historically have voted in lockstep with Democratic candidates, Allegheny County Republican Committee Chairman Jim Roddey said the GOP should pitch economic arguments: "Are you satisfied with your life? Do you feel your vote for the Democrats has helped you? I think there are a lot who will say 'no.' "
Trying to court black voters is complicated by controversy over the state's voter ID law, approved by a Republican-controlled legislature. Commonwealth Court is considering a suit that challenges its constitutionality. The NAACP leads in opposing the law.
Supporters say it is intended to protect the integrity of elections. The NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union say it will disenfranchise tens of
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