Hardball with Chris Matthews, 2/20/13, 7:00 PM ET

Rebranding attempt hits roadblock with CPAC schedule

Republican strategist John Brabender and Politico’s Roger Simon talk about the lineup for CPAC 2013, and the return of Mitt Romney.

The conservative conference, seeking a fresh new start, invites…Mitt Romney

Updated

New year, same old Republican party.

Since Mitt Romney’s loss in November, the GOP has admitted it must broaden its appeal, especially to women, minorities, and younger voters.

But judging from the lineup at the Conservative Political Action Conference–the annual gathering of right-leaning pols and activists, often seen as a stepping stone for GOPers considering a run for the presidency–not much has changed. The current schedule includes speeches from Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Newt Gingrich, Allen West, and Rick Santorum. And don’t forget Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. And even Mitt Romney.

“Doesn’t look like the far right’s grip on the GOP is fading after all, does it?” Hardball host Chris Matthews asked on Wednesday. Roger Simon, columnist for Politico, agreed. “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” he told Matthews. Simon said the GOP was “looking for people who will appeal to the emotional heartstrings” of the GOP base at the event in March and that the party would rather “win with a purist than lose with a pragmatist.”

John Brabender, who served as Santorum’s senior adviser during the former senator’s presidential campaign, insisted the problem was with the GOPs message, not necessarily those who delivered it.

“Everybody’s talking about this rebranding and they almost think this is like “Moneyball” where we’re supposed to get rid of all our players and bring new players in,” Brabender said. (He noted that there are some fresh faces in the crowd, like Scott Walker and Tim Scott.)

The problem with the GOP is that “we didn’t resonate with the hardworking people around this country,” said Brabender. “…We look like we fight for loopholes for big corporations and we’ve lost our way fighting for average, hardworking blue-collar Americans. And that’s where we have to change.”

The conservative conference, seeking a fresh new start, invites...Mitt Romney

Updated