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DNC chair: Arizona an emblem of GOP outreach problems

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chair of the Democratic National Comittee, cited Arizona repeatedly Tuesday for what she said were failures of the national Republican Party to expand its appeal to minorities and women. (Cronkite News Service photo by Colton Gavin)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chair of the Democratic National Comittee, cited Arizona repeatedly Tuesday for what she said were failures of the national Republican Party to expand its appeal to minorities and women. (Cronkite News Service photo by Colton Gavin)

WASHINGTON – A year after the Republican Party unveiled plans to attract women and minority voters, a national Democratic leader insisted the GOP is still “out of touch,” citing the party’s actions in Arizona as examples.

The claims by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, came as part of a larger, state-by-state list of statements and actions by Republicans on a range of issues that Democrats say “alienate large communities of Americans.”

“No matter the state, no matter the demographic, no matter the region, the GOP rebrand has failed to make a substantive change that will make them any more successful at the ballot box than they were in 2012,” said Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat.

Republican officials on the state and national levels brushed off the charges Tuesday.

“I’d be interested what the DNC thinks about the fact that when you look at Arizona you don’t hear a peep from Democrats about how they plan on making one of the few open races competitive,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, in an emailed statement.

The Democrats’ report was timed to fall on the first anniversary of the Republican Party’s Growth and Opportunity Project – often referred to as the party’s “autopsy report” in the wake of its 2012 loss of the presidential election. Republicans said this week that they have made “tremendous progress” in the past year, citing tens of thousands of surveys, focus groups, listening sessions and other outreach to targeted groups.

Democrats disagreed.

“Basically we’re doing an autopsy on their autopsy,” Wasserman Schultz said as she unveiled the Democrat’s report, “Same Old Party,” at the National Press Club.

The report highlighted what Democrats said was Republican “rhetoric and policy that divides us and is simply out of the mainstream,” but that particularly affects several key voting groups: gays, women, blacks, Latinos, youth and the middle class.

In Arizona, the report pointed to SB 1062, the recently vetoed bill that would have let business owners cite their religious beliefs as a defense for refusing service to customers – including gays and lesbians. It also cited the recent comparison of government assistance to slavery by Republican congressional candidate Jim Brown and state Rep. Bob Thorpe’s tweet suggesting U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is “soft on crime” because he is black.

Wasserman Schultz cited another bill introduced in the Arizona Legislature this year that would have made it a crime for immigrants who are here illegally to attend public school, drive on a public road or use any other public resource.

While Republicans have made few gains, according to Wasserman Schultz, Democrats have been able to put down deeper grass roots and get a better handle on technology than the GOP. That puts the party in a good position for gains in this fall’s elections, she said.

Arizona Republican Party spokesman Tim Sifert disagrees.

Sifert called Wasserman Schultz’s report a “show she is putting on … to get people’s minds off of Obamacare.” He said Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, will play a larger role this fall than Democrats are willing to admit.

“Republicans, Democrats and independents are all concerned about the effects of Obamacare,” Sifert said.

He characterized the Democratic report as an act of desperation.

“Arizona has some very competitive congressional races coming up,” Sifert said. “And any Arizona Democrat that supported Obamacare is worried.”

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