Seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, Louisiana’s governor is calling on the Republican Party to “recalibrate the compass of conservatism” as it rebounds from painful losses in the November elections that gave President Barack Obama a second term.
Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting this week in Charlotte, N.C., becoming the latest high-profile conservative from outside Washington to call for fundamental changes inside the party.
“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults,” he said. “We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”
Jindal offered little detail in the 25-minute address. He called on conservatives to shift their focus from Capitol Hill number crunching to “the place where conservatism thrives – in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway.”
Republican officials from across the country are gathering in North Carolina this week to begin shaping a path forward following their party’s November shellacking.
Despite a weak economy and a high unemployment rate, Republicans failed to regain control of the presidency and Senate, where Democrats gained seats. Republicans held on to their majority in the House of Representatives but lost seats there, too.
The outcome displayed the large and growing advantage of Democrats among women and minorities amid the Republican Party’s sharp turn to the right in recent years.
Jindal said the Republican Party doesn’t need to change its values, but, “might need to change just about everything else we do.”
Asked whether he was considering a presidential bid in 2016, Jindal brushed aside the question. “Any Republican that’s thinking about talking about running for president in 2016 needs to get his head examined,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The comments come a day after the House passed a bill to permit the government to borrow enough money to avoid a first-time default for at least four months, defusing a looming crisis and setting up a springtime debate over taxes, spending and the deficit. The House passed the measure on a bipartisan basis as majority Republicans back away from their previous demand that any increase in the government’s borrowing cap be paired with an equivalent level of spending cuts.
“The Republican Party must become the party of growth, the party of a prosperous future that is based in our economic growth and opportunity that is based in every community in this great country and that is not based in Washington, D.C.,” Jindal said.
The Louisiana governor’s blunt remarks follow criticism from another high-profile Republican based outside Washington who publicly blasted the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
One of the party’s most popular voices, Christie earlier in the month criticized his party’s “toxic internal politics” after House Republicans initially declined to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy. He said it was “disgusting to watch” their actions and he faulted the party’s most powerful elected official, House Speaker John Boehner.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting that Republicans need to develop a sound strategy for confronting the Obama administration, suggesting House Republicans could use hearings to expose waste and promote better ideas.
“A lot of Republicans, frankly, spent the last two years saying, ‘Oh, gee, we don’t have to do much because after Obama loses we’ll work with the new Republican president.’ Well, that world ain’t there,” Gingrich said. “So now they have to make adjustments. They’ve got to understand that this is a different game.”