“Speaking at the NRA meeting in Indianapolis and then going to the RNC meeting in Nashville, it all clicks,” said Paul Helmke, former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and president and CEO of the Brady Center/Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. «You’re giving a single unified message: you don’t tolerate dissent or disagreement over guns.»

The cattle calls in Indiana and Tennessee, on the books for months and aimed at reaffirming the party’s founding tenets, come at a time when there are growing internal doubts about its leadership. Within the party headquarters, there has been recognition that Republicans need to change their message on abortion, and pollsters are advocating a more moderate tactic. And among some committee members, there is a belief that the GOP’s image could be bolstered by lessening its strident opposition to gun safety measures, especially among a group of voters who are simply engaged in national politics.

“Every life matters,” said Oscar Brock, RNC member from Tennessee. “Including those three 9-year-olds in Green Hills,” the Nashville neighborhood where they were shot to death at school. Brock said he believes the party is suffering among undecided voters on the issue of guns and abortion.

But while one corner of the party has begun to push for nuance, others are defending the course of longstanding policies.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a 37-year-old presidential candidate and wealthy biotech businessman, warned that the party would not succeed «by compromising its fundamental principles.»

“We should not apologize for the principles and also live up to the principle instead of just uttering the slogan,” he said in an interview this week.

Ramaswamy suggested that the party not increase access to abortion or toughen gun laws, but instead take steps to make it easier for women to get child care or «early access to Social Security» to finance a family. On guns, Ramaswamy, a father of two young children, said the Republican Party should be serious about funding armed guards at all schools, and «none of us should tolerate the killing of children.»

It’s not uncommon for there to be disagreement within the Republican ranks over whether to bolster the party’s position with the rank and file or adjust and moderate to appeal to independent voters. But the latest round of debate has loomed larger after a series of poor election results, including a Democratic victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. And it’s been sparked by a series of events, including recent mass shootings and the ruling by a Trump-appointed federal judge to suspend FDA approval of a commonly used abortion pill.

The fissures were on vivid display Tuesday in Tennessee, dark red in color. After previously resisting calls for red flag laws, including from Former President Donald Trump in 2019 — Republican Gov. Bill Lee publicly urged the state legislature to pass a version of thatand announced that he would sign an executive order that would strengthen background checks for the purchase of firearms.

Lee’s press conference, which came as a surprise even to Republican legislative leaders, followed a March 27 shooting that killed three 9-year-olds and three adults at a Nashville Christian school. Lee said one of his wife’s closest friends, with whom he planned to have dinner that night, was killed.

It was a remarkable illustration of a GOP official moving quickly to try to soften the party’s image. Less clear is whether a GOP-controlled Legislature that has worked for years to roll back gun regulations will heed the governor’s call to act.

Republicans in the Legislature were already facing the reality that their plan to oust two Democratic members of the House for protesting the state’s gun laws inside the Capitol had failed. One of the ousted members, Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville, rushed back to his seat Monday after being reappointed by local officials. The other, Memphis’ Justin Pearson, is expected to return later this week.

But that was not the only front on which the party was showing signs of entrenchment. On the issue of abortion, Republican concerns have been building for months.

Last week, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel declared the party had a «messaging problem» around abortion, citing recent GOP losses. The New York Times, for its part, reported on Tuesday that the RNC has been circulating a memo showing that voters are more comfortable with a 15-week abortion ban, even as state Republican lawmakers, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, adopt far more restrictive measures. What was left unsaid in the article was that the memo had been drawn up in September, long before the midterm elections.

“She was right,” Brock said, referring to McDaniel’s call to change the party’s messaging on issues like abortion. “And yet she was scolded by the staunch pro-life wing of the electorate. And I’m sorry that that happened.»

Party divisions on the issue of abortion have become clearer since last week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race and the Trump-appointed Texas federal judge’s Friday ruling on mifepristone. Within hours of the ruling, the only likely 2024 Republican candidate to issue a statement of support was former Vice President Mike Pence. No other Republican candidate has commented on the matter.

Penny Nance, executive director of Concerned Women for America, an anti-abortion group, said it was the silence itself, not the ruling, that was making life difficult for Republicans.

“It is foolish not to take these issues head on. They paint our side as extremist when there are no counter narratives,” Nance said.

Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), a donor who operates Greater Georgia, a GOP voter outreach group in her purple southern state, agreed, arguing that Democrats calling for gun reform and expanding the access to abortion are «shining to light the issues that Americans care about, which is the economy, crime, education, open borders, fair elections.»

A Republican pollster who conducted polls on the issue but declined to speak officially said the problem was that party officials «were not articulating our position very well and therefore voters, in the absence of information, fill the vacuum with what is provided to them, and it is provided in large part by the Democrats.”

But when asked if anyone in the party was singing the right tune on the issue, the pollster mentioned only Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina. Mace has repeatedly sounded the alarm that the GOP is wrong. on abortion, and on Monday he told CNN that the FDA should ignore the Texas judge’s ruling.