Five things we learned from the weekend’s Florida GOP quarterly meeting in Tampa

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Republican Party of Florida party chairs and committee members met this weekend in Tampa. Here are some of the things that we learned about the state of the party going into the fall of 2015.

1 — Blaise Ingoglia is serious about reforming the party — at least when it comes to outreach.

The RPOF is getting out of its comfort zone and making the effort to try to bring more young people and minorities into its fold. Part of that began when the party hired a bilingual spokesperson (Wadi Gaiten) earlier this year. Two of the most prominent speakers over the weekend were black conservative commentator Niger Innis and pollster/author Kristen Soltis Anderson. Although Innis spent much of his time criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and speaking less about bringing African-American voters into the fold, Soltis Anderson provided all types of information about how the GOP needs to work with social media to reach younger voters.

2 — Republican Senate candidates are making Washington as big a target as Democrats.

Both David Jolly and Carlos Lopez-Cantera put an emphasis in their speeches on Saturday differentiating Florida Republicans from Washington Republicans. In particular, Lopez-Cantera boasted about the work that he’s done as a productive member of the Florida Legislature vs. hearing complaints from Washington about how Republicans can’t get things accomplished.

3 — With Jeb and Marco struggling in the polls, there wasn’t much talk about presidential politics.

The main goal from Ingoglia on down is getting Florida into the “R” column on Election Night in 2016, but the lack of any excitement about favorite sons Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio was noticeable. The only candidate being talked about at all with any frequency was Donald Trump, demonstrating how the New York City businessman’s dominance in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes is drowning out everyone else in the field.

4 — The rising concerns of independent voters.

It’s hardly a news flash that the biggest growth in new voters in Florida (as in the country) is occurring among non-party-affiliated voters,  but several times that fact was mentioned at the confab. Local party chairs are thinking of creative ways to turn more people on to joining the Republican Party.

5 — The RPOF doesn’t have much respect for Democrats.

Sharon Day, the Republican National Committee co-chair and RPOF national committeewoman, gave two fiery speeches about the state of the presidential race over the weekend. She pumped up party members about fundraising and having an effective ground game, and bashed the top four Democrats running for president as, “a liar (Hillary Clinton), a socialist (Bernie Sanders) a failed mayor and governor (Martin O’Malley) and a metric nut (Lincoln Chafee).”

Similarly, when talking about the party’s ground game, Ingoglia touted the RPOF’s dedication to having every House and Senate member re-elected in 2016, because, “I don’t think that Democrats win elections. I think we lose elections, and we’re going to continue this winning.”

Coming off of 2014’s results, it’s not exactly like the Democrats have a good response.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.