Good summary of the problem here from Lincoln Mitchell at the Huffington Post:
The quandary in which the Republican Party now finds itself is not due to a public relations problem, but stems from being strongly identified, and not without good reason, with the Bush administration. The Bush administration is broadly viewed as a failure, not because it didn't present itself well, but because it mishandled both the economy and foreign policy to disastrous effect. Additionally, some of the ideas which have been foundation of the Republican Party have, in the cases of radical social conservatism and unregulated financial sectors, become the views of an increasingly small minority of Americans. Other bedrock Republican views, such as fiscal conservatism and a realist based foreign policy, were abandoned altogether by the Bush administration and the Republican Party in the last decade. These are problems are profound and go to the core not just of the party's image, but to its vision, message and raison d'etre.
The link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lincoln-mitchell/rebranding-will-not-be-en_b_196312.html
Meanwhile Rush is saying the Republicans don't need a listening tour but a teaching tour.
Here's the deal. The only GOP hope seems to be that Obama will really, really step in it, a la Clinton-Lewinsky or Nixon-Watergate or Johnson-Vietnam or at least Kennedy-Bay of Pigs.
This is never a good strategy, of course, While one should always be prepared to capitalize on your opponent's blunders you can't sit around just waiting for one to occur. There are legitimate questions about the long-term impact of some of Obama's policy preferences and they may turn out to be bad ideas, but they are, by definition, long-term questions and completely irrelevant to the GOP's short-term prospects. In the long-term Obama's time as president will be up, too, and the GOP will have to run against someone else.
But right now they have to cope with Obama, and they're still completely clueless about how to do so. Every single piece of real-world evidence about the intellect and instincts and character of Obama show that he's highly unlikely to make the sort of blunders that hobbled Clinton, Nixon of Johnson. He's a little more likely to fall victim to the sort of hubris that got Kennedy in political trouble but that's a slender thread indeed and Kennedy's blunders were masked by some big successes.
Nope, they can't wait around hoping Obama messes up big time. They have forgotten, but the public surely hasn't, that Obama has an easy act to follow. It's hard to imagine that any blunder he could commit would compare to Bush and therefore even his mistakes will not loom large in the public eye.
The Republicans have to address the substance of the public's criticism. The public views the Bush era as an across-the-board failure and the very, very, very first step in regaining the public's trust is that the GOP must acknowledge that Bush was a failure. So far the GOP response has been to wilfully insist that everything was just fine the last 8 years and the public is must too stupid, misinformed or daft to realize it. The public, naturally, disagrees and considers the GOP to be daft and/or stupid to say so.
Pointing out that the Democrats are spenders, for one small example, has no traction. The public says "and your point is ... ." Because in the public's view the Republicans were also big spenders, but the Republicans didn't spend any of it on them. The GOP has to show that it can be trusted with the money and the only way it will have to do that is at the state level. So GOP governors and state lawmakers, get to it.