“Well, we lost,” said Republican strategist Dick Morris as he took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of suburban Washington, D.C., on Thursday. And in order to win the next election, Morris delivered some bad news to Republicans: They need to change.
Morris laid out a number of issues that are currently preventing Republicans from appealing to the minority and women voters necessary to win national elections again, including immigration and abortion. He also broke the tough news to the GOP faithful that the House Republicans’ budget released this week is misguided.
“We lost because of demographic mathematics,” said Morris, who famously predicted days before the November 2012 election that Mitt Romney would win in a landslide. Morris appeared before a room of at least 50 people at CPAC, one of the biggest annual conservative political gatherings, hosted by American Conservative Union.
To fix this problem, Morris urged Republicans to pass immigration reform immediately. Once the immigration issue is out of the way, he argued, Latinos would embrace the conservative values, switch sides and ultimately become “the salvation of the Republican Party.”
But immigration reform, even with a path to citizenship that Morris supports, is not the tough sell to conservatives that it once was.
The harder sell came in his next prescription: Give up on Roe v. Wade.
In order to win back young women, Morris argued that Republicans should stop trying to make abortion illegal and instead focus on a bipartisan effort to reduce the instances of abortion.
“Single white women run screaming from the Republican Party, largely because of our pro-life position,” Morris said. Morris stressed that Republicans can remain pro-life in principle, but needed to shift their focus away from the courts and embrace polices like “adoption, adoption tax incentives, birth control, abstinence, parental notification, parental support … a whole range of efforts, some sponsored by the right, some sponsored by the left.”
Overturning Roe v. Wade, he said, was “a case we’re never going to win.”
Moving on to the budget wars, Morris explained that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was wrong to focus on balancing the budget by 2023, the main selling point of his latest budget released this week.
“Only about 5 to 7 percent of his total cuts come from the Medicare program,” Morris said. “Why mess with those programs? Why lose 10 years of elections because of those programs.”
“So we don’t get to zero,” Morris continued. “So we don’t balance the budget. Who cares if we have $100 billion deficit? Or $120 [billion]. The important point is what’s the ratio between the deficit and our economy.”
That ratio is in fact the focus of budget being crafted by Senate Democrats.
“Let’s get away from the hypnotic phrase ‘balanced budget,’ and stop being accountants and start being politicians,” Morris said, repudiating the exact message Republican leadership has been sending this week.
As Morris left the stage, he told TPM that his message on abortion would go over “pretty well” at CPAC. Within seconds, a line of people had already formed to take pictures with Morris and shake his hand.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.