To much acclaim, the Republican National Committee released its road map for reform in March, emphasizing that the path to success called for moderating the party's position on immigration, courting a more diverse set of officeholders, and building the GOP around pragmatic governors rather than polarizing members of Congress.
Three months later, those recommendations seem to have already been forgotten. Party leaders in Washington anonymously rebuked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for his self-interested scheduling of a Senate special election, treating a rare blue-state conservative governor like a pariah. As the debate on immigration heats up in Congress, the majority of House Republicans cast a symbolic vote rejecting President Obama's executive order to end deportations of young people brought to this country illegally as children. In Massachusetts, the party nominated a Hispanic military veteran who is within striking distance of winning a Senate seat, but few major donors are giving money to his campaign.
"This is the world's longest psychotherapy session. Everyone's trying to talk their way through what happened in 2012. The more they talk, the more they enjoy the therapy session," said Republican strategist Brad Todd, who is working for Gabriel Gomez, the GOP nominee in the Bay State.
The composite is a party stuck in the status quo despite its leaders' public hand-wringing. Much of the desire for change is coming from the top, while the more-populist conservative grassroots—skeptical of wide-ranging legislation and disdainful of pragmatic problem-solvers—are pulling in another direction.