NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Why did Republicans lose the 2012 elections when so many Republicans really didn't like President Obama? A CPAC panel titled "CSI: Washington, D.C.: November 2012 Autopsy" set out to answer that question. The panelist mostly avoided a question that might better help them win elections: Why aren't there more Republicans?

In their introductory speeches, The American Spectator's John Fund explained that Obama's campaign had amazing microtargeting power. The Washington Examiner's Michael Barone said Republicans lacked enthusiasm. Former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle said Democrats demonized Republicans and made people feel guilty.  Editorial cartnooist Michael Ramirez ticked through many conservatives hate about Obama -- Solyndra, the deficit, Obamacare, Benghazi -- and suggested these things should have been fatal if the mainstream media wasn't such a lapdog for the White House. "The media made the economy irrelevant," Ramirez said, even though three of the four members of the panel are successfully employed by conservative media, as was the moderator, Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson. 

After the speeches, Carlson, to his credit, gently prodded the panelists to wonder if maybe Romney played a role in Romney's loss. "The lack of emphasis on Romney's campaign was striking," Carlson said of the speeches. "I'm wondering is there something the Republican Party is doing wrong in the way that it goes about finding candidates?" Fund agreed that the tendency to blame campaign consultants -- Romney campaign manager Stuart Stevens and Karl Rove have gotten a lot of criticism since November -- forgets that candidates are the ones who hire the consultants. But Barone stepped in, saying, "Let me just say a few things in defense of Romney…" Romney made some bold decisions he said. He showed up unannounced at Solyndra's headquarters, for example. That's right, he did things Republicans like. Why didn't he win?

Carlson, again to his credit, asked for specific things Republicans could do to make new Republicans. The panel struggled to do that. Fund was the most specific -- Republicans should take a grittier, more populist tone, and recognize that being pro-business is not always the same as being pro-free market. Maybe they should look at why they're defending the carried interest loophole that allows investment managers (like Mitt Romney) to be taxed at a low rate of 15 percent.

But the other panelists failed to answer Carlon's question. Buerkle said Republicans need to "embrace" women and Latinos, and not just during the election. "We're not making our case to those communities, to women," she said. "They can't relate to Nancy Pelosi." But how? Ramirez had vaguer answers. "I just think you need to speak your conservative principles and be bold," he said. "The media prevents it from being a fair fight" because it's so biased, he said. So "you have to demand more of the media." Maybe that should start with te conservative media.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.)