GOP REBRANDING CAMPAIGN FALLS APART…. In the spring, the Republican rebranding effort was a pretty big deal in GOP circles. The National Council for a New America, in particular, enjoyed the support of leading GOP voices — Cantor, Romney, McCain, Bush, Gingrich, Palin, Jindal, and Barbour — and even managed to organize an outside-the-Beltway event, which just happened to be inside the Beltway.

But since then, nothing. No events, no media, no website updates, no discussion of party rebranding at any level.

We talked a month ago about whether the entire initiative was a bust. Patrick O’Connor reported last night that the effort has, in fact, “flamed out.”

Since its launch, the National Council hasn’t held a single public event, despite more than 5,000 invitations to take their show out on the road. Congressional ethics rules limit what Cantor can do with the group because he launched it from his leadership office, making it harder to organize events and recruit partners. Despite that caution, the group is still taking heat from outside watchdog groups that argue he is violating the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of those rules.

Furthermore, the Council has come under criticism from conservatives, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who made fun of the group for creating a “listening tour” inside the Beltway “bubble.”

While there’s apparently some talk that the NCNA might still try to have some kind of impact in the future, the whole project seems to have become something of an embarrassment, especially for House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who was largely responsible for getting the initiative off the ground.

Stepping back, early enthusiasm for the effort notwithstanding, it’s not at all clear whether the Republican Party is quite ready for a rebranding campaign. As a rule, the whole point of rebranding is to offer the public something new and fresh, demonstrating a break with the past in order to present something old in a new light. And yet, when this project got underway, party leaders had a debate amongst themselves over whether Reagan should be the template for GOP rebranding. Worse, half the party was outraged those leading the initiative weren’t focusing on go-to issues like abortion and gay rights.

For that matter, most of the party seemed to make a calculus early on about future electoral success. While it might have made sense for the Republican Party to shift direction after a series of national defeats left them in the minority, GOP leaders, for good or ill, decided to make a gamble: attack the president and congressional Democrats, and hope for the best.

If Dems are successful, the reasoning goes, voters will reward the majority. If not, Republicans stand a chance, whether they’ve been rebranded or not. It’s a recipe that calls for obstruction, deception, and petty partisanship, not reintroducing the GOP to the electorate.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.