CNN host Soledad O’Brien on Friday advised former Republican National Committee Chairman Mel Martinez that Republicans would need to do more that just encourage African-Americans and Hispanics to get to know them better because “they know you and they decided they don’t like you.”
Speaking with Martinez before the the Republican Party’s winter meeting continued in North Carolina on Friday, she noted that the party had launched a website asking for suggestions but wondered how it would be turned into “real change.”
“Well, I think first of all, it’s a great reassessment taking place within the party and I think it’s very, very healthy,” Martinez explained. “I’m really quite encouraged, not only by the website and the fact we’re reaching out to people to input because I think we’ve lost the ability to communicate well and I think that’s a beginning.”
O’Brien pointed out that South Carolina committeeman Glenn McCall, who is part of a task force charge with moving the party forward, had suggested to The Wall Street Journal that the problem was that minorities “simply don’t know us.”
“In many ways, we’re at square one,” McCall said. “There are large portions of the population — African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young voters — who simply don’t know us. We have to change that.”
“Is it that they don’t know you? Meaning you as the GOP,” O’Brien asked Martinez. “Or is that they know you and they decided they don’t like you?”
“Look, I think there’s a communication gap and I think that our party has done a poor job reaching out to these particular groups,” the former U.S. senator insisted. “And I think this is about communicating our message.”
“But on some other things you might say are core to the GOP message, I think you’re going to have a challenge,” the CNN host explained, pointing to the Republican Party’s policy of keeping taxes low for wealthy Americans while cutting government programs that help the poor.
“Does that mean that you take the assessment and then you change policy potentially?” she wondered.
“No, I don’t think you change principles, but I think you change the conversation,” Martinez declared. “We shouldn’t be talking about protecting the wealthy from raising taxes. We should be talking about a tax code that promotes economic growth, and that lifts all boats.”
“So, the bottom line is that it’s about taxes, it’s about an overbearing government but it’s really about how we communicate it. Are we really protecting a certain segment of taxpayers or are we looking to have a tax code that really promotes economic growth?”
Watch the video below from CNN’s Starting Point, broadcast Jan. 25, 2013.