Top 10 questions Republicans need to ask

Preparing for the next election means asking the right questions about what went wrong in the last one, so here are some things for Republicans to ponder.

1. What issues should the party emphasize?

Republicans need core issues to emphasize in the next campaign that resonate with the American people, along with coherent solutions to solve problems. After four more years of President Barack Obama, concerns about the debt and the economy are sure to be in the forefront, but others will lead as well, such as health care. The time to battle on the more contentious issues within the party such as immigration, the war on drugs, gay marriage, and entitlement reform best be dealt with sooner than later.

2. How to better deliver a conservative message of individual liberty?

Let???s face it: Mitt Romney and his surrogates failed to articulate a clear, conservative message that was persuasive enough to counter Obama???s Santa Claus strategy. After four more years of Obama???s presidency, the failure of liberalism will be on full display, but still conservatives will have to find a better way to explain the virtues of small government and free markets.

3. How to target key voter segments, reach and engage them?

As banal as it seems, Obama???s strategy of going on ???The View,??? hobnobbing with rappers, tweeting his thoughts and becoming a regular on late-night TV worked. In his data-driven campaign, someone was figuring out who the likely voters were on a micro level, where they were, and how to reach them???and engage them early and continuously through Twitter, Facebook, emails, media appearances and events.

4. How to use social media to mobilize voting and fundraising?

Again, Republicans have been steps behind Democrats in using technology and social media to reach out to voters. Obama raked in money online and sold a fashion line on his website. Mitt Romney???s vaunted Project Orca, a high-tech, get-out-the-vote effort, ended up being a debacle, crashing on Election Day. Republicans seem sorely out of touch.

5. How to better work with the tea party?

While the tea party infused Republicans with new vigor after Obama???s 2008 victory, it has also stymied conservatives by nominating candidates who are unelectable. The wings of the party need to find a way to work together and promote candidates like Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who are effective spokespersons for the conservative cause.

6. How to increase the Hispanic vote?

Republicans need to do some soul-searching on immigration because any hard line approach???round up and deport illegal immigrants???is going to alienate otherwise conservative-leaning Hispanics who can???t bear to see the breakup of families in their community. Conservatives from Newt Gingrich to Marco Rubio are offering alternatives; perhaps it is time to test various conservative immigration reform measures with a vote in the House to see where the support lies.

7. How to increase women???s vote, the youth vote?

There???s a very bad current joke that says ???The best way for the GOP to gain female votes is for single women to find husbands, as married women are much more likely to vote Republican than their single counterparts.??? Regrettably, such is the state of what passes for analysis. The nation???s young voters???aged 18 to 29???voted 60 percent for Obama in 2012, after voting 66 percent in 2008. Republicans should be reaching out now and asking, ???What are your issues? How do you want to engage politically????

8. What assumptions were made that were faulty? Where were the leaps of logic?

Here???s one: People will recognize America is off-track, and will vote against Barack Obama. Instead, the GOP found that people are much more likely to vote for something than against something. And that ???status quo??? can sound like the safest option. That the power of the incumbent is still powerful. And, to borrow from business, you have to speak to your ???non-customers??? to improve your product, not just your ???customers.???

9. What???s the best primary system?

The GOP decided to emulate the Democratic 2008 primary experience and elongated the nominating cycle, hoping that the continued focus on their battle would work to their benefit, much as Obama had benefited four years earlier by battling Hillary Clinton down to the wire. Unfortunately, as his GOP competitors began ganging up on Romney, Obama was running attack ads in battleground state at a time when Romney was unable to respond. The Republican Party needs to figure out the best primary system to elect the strongest candidate, perhaps considering a series of regional primaries.

10. How to winnow the field?

It will be quite the sight in the early GOP debates when the number of candidates will easily double the 2012 field. Some 15 serious officials are said to be considering making a run, and that doesn???t include fringe candidates that are sure to drop in. Increasingly, much of the primary battle takes place before the first real vote is cast with candidates dropping out based on straw polls, fundraising capability, debate debacles or approval ratings. Some thought will have to be given as to how a meaningful 90-minute debate can be conducted among, say, two dozen candidates.