WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee on Monday announced an inquiry to look at what went wrong in 2012's presidential election and how the GOP can respond to the nation's shifting demographics and adopt smarter political strategies.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus asked a group of five respected party leaders to examine how the GOP can better talk with voters, raise money from donors and learn from Democrats' tactics. Preibus also asked the group, known as the Growth and Opportunity Project, to look at how campaigns are best organized and deployed, how they can work with independent groups such as super political action committees, and how the party should approach the 2016 presidential primaries as part of a top-to-bottom review.

"The Growth and Opportunity Project will recommend a plan to further ensure Republicans are victorious in 2013, 2014, 2016 and beyond," Priebus said in a statement. "The work of the Growth and Opportunity Project will be critical as we move forward as a party and take our message to every American."

Romney's loss on Nov. 6 to President Barack Obama has left the GOP without a clear leader but with many questions about its future. Exit polls indicated Obama carried female, black, Hispanic and Asian voting blocs. He also won among voters under the age of 45 and those who lived in mid- to large-sized cities.

That adds up to a quandary for a party looking ahead at gubernatorial races next year in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as 2014's midterm elections.

Soul-searching after political embarrassments is nothing new, of course. After President Ronald Reagan carried 49 states in his 1984 re-election, Democrats retooled their party and set in motion pragmatic shifts that resulted in the rise of the New Democrats that Bill Clinton rode to the nomination eight years later.

"I am excited for the future of the GOP and am confident this project will strengthen our cause tremendously in the coming years," said Sharon Day, the RNC's co-chairwoman.

Former George W. Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and Sally Bradshaw, a veteran strategist and top adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, are among those leading the inquiry. Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, a GOP strategist and nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, too, will be part of the group. RNC members Zori Fonalledas of Puerto Rico and Glenn McCall of South Carolina round out the five-person committee.

Republican officials said the group would have access to RNC aides and would eventually talk to hundreds of party leaders and rank-and-file voters to better understand how the GOP came up short to Obama. After the election, top Republicans groused that Romney's campaign struggled to communicate effectively with voters, woo crucial demographic groups and break through with a winning strategy.

The party enjoyed major gains in 2010's elections, having the biggest midterm gains since 1938. Yet two years later, Republicans didn't capture the biggest prize in American politics, the presidency. Despite solid fundraising from the party and quick work from Romney after he won the nomination, the GOP couldn't overcome Obama's four-year head start and his on-the-ground advantages.

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  • 2012 -- Mitt Romney

    Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, speaks at the podium as he concedes the presidency on November 7, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

  • 2008 -- John McCain

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gestures to his supporters, while his wife, Cindy looks on during his concession speech at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • 2004 -- John Kerry

    Former Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) stands on stage with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry after delivering his concession speech at Faneuil Hall on November 3, 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

  • 2000 -- Al Gore

    Democratic presidental candidate Al Gore leaves the voting booth after casting his vote at Forks River Elementry School in Elmwood, Tennessee on November 7, 2000. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1996 -- Bob Dole

    Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole lowers his head while making his concession speech to supporters at a Washington hotel, on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1996. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • 1992 -- George H.W. Bush

    U.S. President George Bush concedes the election on Nov. 3, 1992 after losing to President-elect Bill Clinton. (BOB DAEMMRICH/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1992 -- Ross Perot

    U.S. independent presidential candidate Ross Perot delivers his concession speech on November 3, 1992 after Democrat Bill Clinton won the presidential election. (Photo credit should read PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1988 -- Michael Dukakis

    Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis wipes his upper lip during the first presidential debate with his opponent U.S. Vice President George Bush in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Sept. 25, 1988. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan)

  • 1984 -- Walter Mondale

    Defeated presidential hopeful Walter Mondale addresses supporters at night, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 1984 at the St. Paul Civic center, conceding to President Reagan. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

  • 1980 -- Jimmy Carter

    U.S. President Jimmy Carter concedes defeat in the presidential election as he addresses a group of Carter-Mondale supporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1980. (AP Photo/Barry Thumma)

  • 1976 -- Gerald Ford

    President Gerald Ford speaks in the White House Press Room in Washington on November 3, 1976, conceding defeat to Jimmy Carter. (AP photo/ stf)

  • 1972 -- George McGovern

    Sen. George McGovern and his family in Sioux Falls, election night, Nov. 7, 1972 after he was defeated by Richard Nixon, and conceding the election. (AP Photo)

  • 1968 -- Hubert H. Humphrey

    Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey spaks at the Alfred E. Smith memorial dinner in Waldorf Astoria on Oct. 16, 1968 in New York. (AP Photo/John Lent)

  • 1964 -- Barry Goldwater

    A contact sheet of Republican senator Barry Morris Goldwater of Arizona concedes the 1964 presidential election to President Lyndon Johnson at a press conference held at his campaign headquarters at the Camelback Inn, Phoenix, Arizona, on November 4, 1964. (Photo by Washington Bureau/Getty Images)

  • 1960 -- Richard Nixon

    Vice President Nixon points to home-made sign at airport as he arrives in home state to cast his ballot on Nov. 8, 1960 in Ontario, California. (AP Photo)

  • 1956 -- Adlai Stevenson

    Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts talks with Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson on August 12, 1956 in Chicago. (AP Photo)

  • 1952 -- Adlai Stevenson

    Movie Actress Piper Laurie (left) is wearing a donkey head beauty spot on her cheek as she chats with Gov. Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, Democratic presidential nominee in Portland on Sept. 8, 1952. (AP Photo)

  • 1948 -- Thomas Dewey

    Dewey ran as the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the elections of 1944 and 1948. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

  • 1944, 1948 -- Thomas Dewey

    Thomas Dewey (1902 - 1971) Governor of the State of New York broadcasting over the 'Crusade of Freedom' radio. Dewey was the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the elections of 1944 and 1948. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1940 -- Wendell Wilkie

    Wendell Willkie, rehearses a report to the nation at a New York City radio station on Oct. 26, 1942. Willkie was President Roosevelt's personal representative, and his Republican opponent in the 1940 presidential elections. (AP Photo/Murray Becker)

  • 1936 -- Alf Landon

    Gov. Alf M. Landon, G.O.P. presidential nominee, voting in Independence, Kansas on Nov. 3, 1936. (AP Photo)

  • 1932 -- Herbert Hoover

    Herbert Hoover is shown leaving Madison Square Garden, Oct. 31, 1932 in New York City, after delivering his major campaign address before a crowd estimated at 22,000. (AP Photo)

  • 1928 -- Alfred E. Smith

    Governor Alfred E. Smith speaks in New York on Nov. 2, 1928. (AP Photo)

  • 1924 -- John W. Davis

    John W. Davis, Democratic nominee for President of the U.S., and his wife, are pictured on the estate of Charles Dana Gibson at Seven Hundred Acre Island in Dark Harbor, Maine on July 21, 1924. (AP Photo)

  • 1920 -- James M. Cox

    Democratic candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency of the United States, Governor James M Cox and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) are seen at the head of a nomination parade in Dayton, Ohio on Nov. 1, 1920. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • 1916 -- Charles Evans Hughes

  • 1912 -- Theodore Roosevelt

    Theodore Roosevelt during the progressive campaign of 1912. (AP Photo)