The US Republican Party needs to stop insulting voters and broaden its appeal, say some of its leading figures following the re-election of Democratic President Barack Obama thanks to overwhelming support from Hispanics, blacks and single women.
Comments made by two top Republican governors and an influential US senator on Sunday reflected the soul-searching taking place in the party after Obama's victory over Republican Mitt Romney on November 6.
"If we want people to like us, we have to like them first. And you don't start to like people by insulting them and saying their votes were bought," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, told the Fox News Sunday programme.
Jindal and some other Republicans rejected Romney's remarks last week blaming his election loss on what he called an Obama strategy of giving "gifts" to blacks, Hispanics and young voters - groups instrumental to his re-election victory.
These "gifts" cited by Romney included passage of Obama's signature healthcare law, support for contraceptive coverage in medical insurance, and a policy change relaxing US deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants who came to the US as children can stay and work.
Romney made the remarks in a telephone call to supporters that news organisations heard.
"We are in a big hole," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC's Meet the Press. "We are not getting out of it by comments like that [by Romney]. When you're in a hole, stop digging. He keeps digging."
Graham, who has taken part in a bipartisan effort to fashion immigration reform legislation, said his party was "in a death spiral with Hispanic voters".
Republicans in recent years have taken a hard line against the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the US, most of whom are Hispanic.
During the campaign, Romney called for "self-deportation" of illegal immigrants.
Obama was also able to score points by criticising congressional Republican refusal to support higher taxes on the rich as part of a deficit-cutting plan. Romney was caught on videotape saying 47 per cent of Americans are "victims" who depend on government handouts.
Graham said the focus should be on how to create jobs, not demonise people who find themselves in hard times.
Jindal said: "We need to make it very clear - we're not the party trying to protect the rich. They can protect themselves. We are the party that wants growth, pro-growth policies."
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker also called for a more inclusive message. "We've got a message that works for young people, that works for people who come to our country from other countries, and basically for anyone who wants to live their piece of the American dream," he said.
"We have to show we are serious about reaching out and helping everyone."
Asked why two-thirds of unmarried women voters backed Obama, Jindal alluded to comments by Republican Senate candidates that pregnancy from rape was something God intended and that women's bodies could ward off pregnancy after "legitimate rape".
Jindal, who opposes abortion, said: "I'm pro-life. I follow the teachings of my church and my faith." But he said Republicans should respect people who disagreed on abortion.Topics: Republican Party Mitt Romney US Politics US Presidential Election 2012