By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
HOW'S THE PATIENT?: In what party leaders called the "most comprehensive post-election review" ever undertaken, the Republican National Committee unveiled a nearly 100-page report yesterday with a series of diagnoses about what ails the party and more than a few prescriptions all aimed at resuscitating it in the wake of a painful loss last year. "Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren't inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said of Mitt Romney and the GOP's 2012 loss. "There's no one solution. There's a long list of them." http://abcn.ws/YmCGJm
THE RX: The GOP report, called the "Growth and Opportunity Project," lays out a plan that included more extensive outreach to women, African-American, Asian, Hispanic and gay voters, notes ABC's Shushannah Walshe. Among the plans: hiring paid outreach staffers across the country in a $10 million push that begins right away; backing "comprehensive immigration reform"; abbreviating the presidential primary process with fewer debates, specifically saying the party would like roughly half of the 20 that took place during the 2012 cycle; and moving the party's nominating convention to June or July. Chairman Priebus noted that the party's policies are fundamentally sound but require a softer tone and broader outreach, include a stronger push for African-American, Latino, Asian, women and gay voters. http://abcn.ws/YmCGJm
SAVE ME, SAN FRANCISCO: Among the report's recommendations for re-vamping the GOP's digital and data gathering efforts, the RNC is pledging to invest more money to encourage "innovation," as well as hold "hackathons" in cities like San Francisco, Austin, New York and Denver. They will also set out on a "digital road show" once the new digital and data plan is in place, and even suggested opening an RNC field office in San Francisco - a city often derided by Republicans for its reputation as a liberal bastion. http://abcn.ws/YmCGJm
GETTING A SECOND OPINION: The recommendations in the Republican National Committee's "autopsy" report to tighten the party's primary process are getting mixed reviews from those states and candidates that clearly benefited from a longer calendar and more debates last time around. John Brabender, Rick Santorum's senior campaign adviser, told ABC's Shushannah Walshe that there are a "few things in there (the report) that could potentially limit the candidates who win presidential primaries and basically put the thumb on the scale for the wealthiest candidates, the candidates that have the strongest establishment backing to the detriment of candidates who may be more qualified, have a better message, and can win in November," he said. Craig Robinson, the former political director of the RNC who now runs IowaRepublican.com, said that he's worried a shortened schedule would mean a December caucus for Iowa. "If everyone needs to be done by May 15 so that we can have a convention in June, there's a risk of stacking it up in the beginning," Robinson said. "I think we are overreacting to what happened last time." http://abcn.ws/11dutxG
ABC's RICK KLEIN: It's easy to dismiss the Republican Party's "autopsy report" as inside political baseball, on the order of revenue-sharing agreements and cable contracts rather than on-field exploits. But when you factor in the limited purview of the Republican National Committee in defining what it means to be a Republican, Chairman Reince Priebus went about as far as he could possibly go in trying to turn the GOP around in 2012's wake. It won't be enough to change the party's "tone" or launch "outreach" efforts for minority groups, but they're not bad starts. "Comprehensive immigration reform" may not technically include a path to citizenship, but the implication is clear, as is the break with the party's recent history. On the mechanics - the pieces RNC leaders are most responsible for putting together - the clear goal is creating a primary process that makes it more likely that a Republican nominee will actually win the presidency. As with anything a party committee does or says, it's left to elected officials and candidates to make into reality. But don't blame Priebus' RNC for not giving 2016 a solid start.
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Mitt Romney has been undergoing a thorough re-examination in recent weeks - from his Fox News interview earlier this month to his first major speech since the 2012 election last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference to yesterday's Republican National Committee's "what went wrong" report. And the failed GOP presidential nominee did not exactly get rave reviews in this latest assessment: "If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence. It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies," the authors wrote, noting that Romney received only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote last year. However, the report highlighted at least two bright spots for the Romney campaign: an "outstanding finance team" and a similarly efficient "admin shop" - essentially the treasury department of the campaign. So, it comes as no surprise that when most GOP operatives discuss Romney's future role in the party the first word that comes to mind is "fundraising."
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The RNC's blunt assessment that they must engage minorities and women as well as admitting their many mistakes last time around is both a humble and bold step forward for the party. But, will the guidelines and recommendations the co-chairs put together be heeded by the entire party, especially the more conservative wing? Without the full party behind the re-boot the much talked about schism or "civil war" within the GOP could just get deeper.
ABC's SUNLEN MILLER: The continuing resolution, which will keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year through September, took a huge step forward last night as a resolution co-sponsored by Sen. Barabara Mikulski, D-Md., and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., gained the 60 votes needed for cloture. This was the largest hurdle for the continuing resolution in the Senate and sets up the potential for a final vote today. If it passes in the Senate, it will then need to go back to the House for final passage due to the Senate tweaks.
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
10 YEARS LATER: THE SACRIFICES AND PROGRESS OF THE IRAQ WAR. On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, Brig. Gen. Gary Volesky and his wife LeAnn told ABC's Martha Raddatz that there were many "worst days" during the war, but they are confident that the sacrifices the United States made were worth it. "If I looked at 2004 in Sadr City and saw what we walked in to and brought you back a year later and showed you what contributions, what those soldiers did in that area, it was clearly worth it," Brig. Gen. Volesky tells On the Radar. "And being able to fly a year later, back into that same city and see the Iraqi police doing things that only we could do, you look and say yeah, we made a difference." WATCH: http://yhoo.it/XYUdgp
WHAT WE'RE READING
"WHAT DOES THE SENATE HAVE IN COMMON WITH SINGLE-CELLED ORGANISMS?" by Yahoo! News Columnist Chris Wilson. "Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference last Friday morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had this to say about factionalism within the Republican Party: 'The mainstream media loves nothing more than to sow division among conservatives. They love it when we take shots at each other. It gets more coverage than a D.C. snowstorm.' … McConnell's own crew of Senate Republicans have divided themselves quite ably without anyone sowing anything, based purely on how they have voted in 2013. To find out how united or divided both Republicans and Democrats are in the current senate, I started with a simple concept: For every member, I calculated which other senators voted the same way at least 75 percent of the time. In effect, this organizes the senate as a mini-Facebook of 100 users, in which any given pair of senators are friends if they meet this 75-percent threshold. When visualized, the picture looks like the final stages of cell division when a Paramecium reproduces, in which a formerly unified body has nearly split into two distinct creatures." Check out Wilson's interactive graphic, " The Senate Social Network" : http://yhoo.it/113CilN
WILL SOUTH CAROLINA MAKE MARK SANFORD THE COMEBACK KID? Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor whose career imploded when it turned out that what he said was a Appalachian Trail hiking trip was actually a visit to his mistress in Argentina, will attempt a political redemption of epic proportions today, ABC's Chris Good reports. Nearly four years after the bizarre press conference at which he revealed he was having an affair with an Argentine woman - and that he had not, as staff had been told, left to hike the Appalachian Trail - Sanford is running for the Charleston-area First District House seat he won in 1994 and held until 2001. The former governor will compete against 15 other Republican candidates in today's primary, staged to fill a seat vacated when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed then-Rep. Tim Scott to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jim DeMint in the upper chamber. South Carolina insiders expect Sanford to win, but with no public polling available, their opinions are informed by internal polls conducted by campaigns, which show Sanford winning with support just under 30 percent - although ABC News has not seen the polls and does not consider candidates' commissioned surveys to be reliable. http://abcn.ws/1497eWj
THE OTHER CONTENDERS: Headlining the crowded GOP field competing against Sanford are Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner; former Charleston County Council member Curtis Bostic; state Sen. Larry Grooms; state Rep. Chip Limehouse; and former state senator John Kuhn. Sanford will likely face a primary runoff election on April 2, as mandated if no candidate surpasses 50 percent, before the general election on May 7. Sanford could face off against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of Stephen Colbert and one of two Democrats vying for the seat, which is considered a Republican stronghold. http://abcn.ws/1497eWj
OBAMA EMBARKS ON FIRST PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO ISRAEL. President Obama departs tonight for his first presidential trip to Israel, a largely symbolic visit aimed more at mending rocky relationships than forging substantive policy, notes ABC's Mary Bruce. While Obama once said he was putting off visiting Israel until "we are actually moving something forward," he is not expected to make progress on any new peace initiatives during his four-day trip to Israel and Jordan. The president will land in Israel less than 48 hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new coalition government was installed, circumstances that further lower political expectations for Obama's visit. The president will spend the bulk of his trip participating in choreographed photo-ops and speaking to the Israeli people, in an attempt to mend relations with America's primary ally in the Middle East. Obama will also meet with both President Shimon Peres and Netanyahu shortly after his arrival on Wednesday. The centerpiece of the trip, however, will be the president's speech to the Israeli people, in which he will underscore the strong ties between the U.S. and Israel. http://abcn.ws/WAN9Dv
WHY HE'S GOING: "We've been very clear that this visit is not about trying to lay down a new initiative or complete our work on a particular issue," Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters. "Frankly, there's value in traveling precisely at a time when there is a new government in Israel and a new government in the United States and just having a broad strategic conversation … With a new government, you don't expect, again, to close the deal on any one major initiative," he said. "But you, on the other hand, want to begin a broad conversation about all these issues where we're cooperating on a day-to-day basis. And there are obviously going to be significant decisions in the months and years ahead about Iran, about Syria, about Israeli-Palestinian peace. And so by having this opportunity to speak with Israeli leaders, it can frame those decisions that ultimately will come down the line. And that's the way in which the President is approaching the trip." http://abcn.ws/WAN9Dv
COULD IMMIGRATION, VOTING RIGHTS STALL OBAMA LABOR NOMINEE? President Barack Obama on Monday officially nominated Justice Department official Thomas Perez to his become secretary of labor, but, Fusion's Jordan Fabian writes that several Republican lawmakers indicated Perez could face stiff resistance in confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill. Perez could encounter a tough grilling from Republican senators, who have painted him as too liberal on issues regarding immigration, voting rights and labor laws. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) vowed he would block Perez's nomination until the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) answers more questions about a lawsuit filed against Louisiana that alleges state agencies violated federal law by not providing voter registration forms to low-income voters. As head of the Justice Department's civil rights division since October 2009, Perez oversaw the Louisiana case. An independent inspector general report says that the department acted properly in narrowing the charges. The report found that Perez gave "incomplete testimony" to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, when he said that political appointees were not involved in the process to dismiss the charges. Other GOP senators have echoed Vitter's criticism. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the senior Republican on the judiciary committee, said in a statement that Perez was "woefully unprepared to answer questions in front of the Civil Rights Commission on a subject matter he told the Inspector General he expected questions on." http://abcn.ws/15WFhPH
BACKSTORY: WHY HILLARY CLINTON ENDORSED GAY MARRIAGE. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally announced her support of same-sex marriage in a video released by the Human Rights Campaign on Monday. ABC's Dana Hughes notes that this is the first formal public appearance Clinton has made in over a month, since attending a Pentagon ceremony shortly after stepping down from her position as Secretary of State. A Spokesperson for Mrs. Clinton told ABC News that this was "a natural time" for her to come out publicly in support of same-sex marriage "given that the she is no longer serving as Secretary of State and the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the subject next week," the spokesperson said, adding that Clinton has wanted to share her support for the LGBT community on this issue, and is "very happy to be able to do so." The announcement from Clinton comes just after a high profile Republican, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, announced his experience with his gay son had led him to support same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court is set to hear challenges to California's Prop. 8., which banned same-sex marriage in that state, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton and denies to same-sex couples survivor benefits and other federal preferences for married heterosexual couples. http://abcn.ws/WRzOt3
WHAT SHE SAID: In the six minute address, a well-rested Mrs. Clinton speaks directly to the camera, outlining the case for the legalization of gay marriage. "LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones," said Clinton. "They are full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes marriage." She added, "To deny the opportunity to any of our daughters and sons solely based on who they are and who they love is to deny them the chance to live up to their own God-given potential." http://abcn.ws/WRzOt3
GAY MARRIAGE: THE PROOF IS IN THE POLLING. Support for gay marriage reached a new high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, marking a dramatic change in public attitudes on the subject across the past decade. Fifty-eight percent of Americans now say it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to wed, notes ABC Pollster Gary Langer. That number has grown sharply in ABC News/Washington Post polls, from a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, advancing to a narrow majority for the first time only two years ago, and now up again to a significant majority for the first time. Most Americans, moreover, say the U.S. Constitution should trump state laws on gay marriage, a question now before the U.S. Supreme Court. And - in another fundamental shift - just 24 percent now see homosexuality as a choice, down from 40 percent nearly 20 years ago. It's a view that closely relates to opinions on the legality of same-sex marriage. http://abcn.ws/XU7bMr
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
" TOP OBAMA STRATEGIST JOINS SENATE SUPERPAC": "Former Obama for America Deputy Campaign Manager and one of the nation's most successful political fundraisers Julianna Smoot is joining the Board of Senate Majority PAC and will work with the Senate team on outreach and development. Bringing with her a vast network of contacts throughout Democratic and progressive political circles, Smoot will provide Senate Majority PAC with strategic advice and insight as they raise resources to continue to protect the Democratic majority."
@ChadPergram: Harrison Ford on Capitol Hill today. Unclear if Greedo is nearby or Jabba the Hutt.