Hundreds of Republicans faithful from the many factions of the party gathered in a Minnesota bar Thursday night to hash over what comes next for their election-battered party.
With occasional rounds of applause and a bit of heckling, the crowd at Arden Hills' Blue Fox spent hours hearing assessments from a panel of operatives and activists what went wrong and how to make it right.
They have little time to find a cure -- in April, the state Republican Party will pick a new chairman and, next year, the GOP will take a shot at unseating U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton.
The panelists, who, at times, testily disputed one another, offered a wide variety of sometimes conflicting prescriptions.
Among their remedies for election year losses: invest in better technology and training for candidates, create a more sophisticated social media presence, focus exclusively on fiscal issues, keep social issues at the forefront, govern like conservatives, listen to libertarians, learn how to talk to Democrats and independents, reach out to minority voters and, from conservative writer Erin Haust, "stop eating our own."
"We've come up with a lot of concepts tonight. I don't think we, as a panel, have come up with a lot of solutions and that's one of the reasons you guys came tonight," panelist Mark Westpfahl, chair of the Second District Republicans, said an hour into the event. "We don't fully know what our solutions are."
Andy Parrish, a former staffer to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmannn, suggested Republicans should look to Democratic tactics to find tactical solutions. He bashed the opposition with dubious claims but said the GOP could learn something from the other side.
"Voter suppression is a beautiful thing, it really is, because that's what the Democrats do," said panelist Parrish, who helped manage last year's failed campaign to pass the marriage amendment. "When we go against the Democrats, it's like going into a boxing ring and showing up with your gloves, ready to fight and the Democrats show up with a bat and two pistols and hits you over the head and shoots you twice and then the referee says you're out because they paid him off."
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