Hillsborough is considered one of the most important and influential swing counties in the country (not to mention it was the host of the RNC). Republican Executive Committee Chairman Art Lee vowed the results in Hillsborough would be a different story this year, and that the coordination between the local party and Mitt Romney's team was infinitely more organized than in 2008.
So what happened? Obama defeated Romney in Hillsborough by 6 points, 52-46.
On Tuesday, the committee held its second organized meeting since the November election. Some party leaders were upfront about their disappointment in last month's results, and vowed to do better in 2014 and 2016.
In official business, party members elected East Hillsborough state Sen. Tom Lee to be their new chairman, and former chair Debbie Cox-Roush was named vice chair. Just as interesting were some of the comments made by officials who spoke before the 193 voting members of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee; none more so than former County Commissioner Chris Hart, who was a candidate for party chair before he conceded to Lee during his nominating speech.
Hart began by making a sly reference to one of Mitt Romney's biggest unforced errors of the campaign, the Boca Raton tape that indicated he didn't really care about people who receive public assistance and/or don't pay income taxes.
"47 percent of the people in this room will like it. And 47 percent won't," Hart joked about his prepared comments.
But he was relatively tame in his prescriptions, saying that it was time to "drill down and learn about our message, demographics and about fundraising," adding that "we've got to find that intellectual property amongst us and really get smart."
Hart referenced Jeb Bush's comments over the summer that the GOP has become so ideologically rigid in recent years that Ronald Reagan wouldn't be able to get elected because he wouldn't be conservative enough. He said that it was important for party members to listen to people and their values and bring them in as "part of the bigger party in the Republican Party."
"That doesn't mean changing our values," he stressed. "That's a matter of applying our tactics, techniques and procedures of how to win elections. That's why we need to go to school," he added, referencing a prior speech by USF political science professor Susan McManus.
Tampa area House member Jamie Grant was effusive in his praise for the Barack Obama campaign, calling it the "greatest campaign ever run by a political candidate." He said the party needed to do better in all capacities, especially in investing its resources.
New vice chair Cox-Roush said the "Obama campaign kicked out butts," adding, "We're out of date. We're out of synch." She said in upcoming elections, "We don't wait on the state. We don't wait on the RNC. We do it ourselves. We set up the ground game, we set up the war room, and we do it."
80-year-old party member Bob Mitchell lost to Cox-Roush for vice chair. He was the only member to publicly speak about how little of the minority vote the Republicans engendered this year, and said it was important that something be done to remove the image of the GOP "being the old white guys" party.