Democrats seek new identity after autopsy of 2014 midterm losses

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Washington (CNN)Democrats need to offer a cohesive "national narrative" instead of just a long checklist of policy pitches, according to a task force created to help the party bounce back from its shellacking in 2014's midterm elections.

In its autopsy of those losses, the task force is calling for a new "national narrative project" to develop a simple explanation for a basic question: What do Democrats stand for?
"No area of this review caused more debate or solicited more ideas than the belief that there is no single narrative that unites all of our work and the issues that we care about as a community of Democrats," the 10-person task force says in the preliminary report it issued Saturday, ahead of a longer version expected in May.
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"It is strongly believed that the Democratic Party is loosely understood as a long list of policy statements and not as people with a common set of core values (fairness, equality, opportunity)," the report says. "This lack of cohesive narrative impedes the party's ability to develop and maintain a lifelong dialogue and partnership with voters."
    The Democratic National Committee released the report during its winter meeting Saturday. It was seven pages long, prompting Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to sarcastically chide that it "sounds pretty serious" on Twitter.
    The autopsy comes after Republicans commissioned a similar report in the wake of their failure to oust President Barack Obama in 2012. That report called on the party to improve its position with Latino voters by embracing immigration reform, as well as new year-round, state-level outreach efforts and fewer debates during its presidential nominating process.
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    The panel that put together the Democrats' report included Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and DNC vice chairwoman Donna Brazile, who is also a contributor at CNN. Its findings were based in part on a poll of 100,000 of the party's supporters.
    The report lays out brutal losses since Obama swept into office in 2008: Democrats have shed 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats, 910 state legislative seats, 30 state legislative chambers and 11 governor's offices.
    Part of the problem, the report acknowledges, is that Republicans gained so many seats in recent years that they controlled the redistricting process and allowed their party to make massive gains that Democrats can't easily challenge. It calls for a "three-cycle plan that targets and wins back legislative chambers" in order to reverse that tide.
    The report recommends stronger relationships with state parties, and also points to a weak Democratic bench, saying the DNC needs to help find and train talent.
    "This includes potential candidates, campaign staff and advisors, and activists and volunteers with ties to different communities," according to the report.