CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Looking for a new direction, many Republicans are turning to the states for an antidote to their 2012 election drubbing.

Republicans are praising the tax and economic growth policies put forward by several GOP governors as a way the party can appeal to the pocketbook needs of voters and avoid the perils of divisive social issues that they believe undermined Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. With governors in 30 states, Republicans say they may be able to pave a path to power from outside Washington.

"Our governors are America's reformers in chief. There is a movement in America being led by our 30 Republican governors," said GOP strategist Ari Fleischer, speaking on the sidelines of the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in Charlotte. "That's a source of inspiration and an example."

The work of governors like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and several GOP governors in Democratic-leaning Rust Belt states are being viewed as case studies for Republicans searching for ways to change the tone and direction of the party after President Barack Obama's re-election.

How Republicans go about rebounding from 2012 dominated discussions in Charlotte, where party officials gathered in a large hotel ballroom with the words, "Renew, Grow, Win," projected on large screens. Fleischer and several Republican strategists are developing a blueprint to help Republicans reach new voters and compete more effectively in elections.

Jindal, in a keynote address Thursday night, said his party was too focused on debt-cutting austerity measures in Washington and had failed to connect with voters on more basic near-term issues like jobs and economic growth.

The Louisiana governor, who is viewed as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has discussed plans to replace state income taxes with higher sales taxes. He said the tax code has become too complicated for average taxpayers and said states need to make reforms to eliminate loopholes that benefit small segments of the population.

"We must focus on real people outside of Washington, not the lobbyists and government inside Washington," Jindal said. "We must stop competing with Democrats for the job of `government manager' and lay out ideas that can unleash the dynamic abilities of the American people."

Other Republican activists cited Kansas, where Brownback has slashed income tax rates for individuals and eliminated taxes for nearly 200,000 companies in the state. His administration has turned over delivery of Medicaid services to private health insurers, a step he says will hold down costs.

Republicans also promote the work of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who pushed through "right to work" legislation that bars unions from requiring workers to pay dues or representation fees, even if they are covered by union contracts.

And they view Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as a breakthrough leader for his much-publicized push to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights – and his ability to survive a union-led campaign to recall him.

"The governors really did provide a model, particularly as you look at states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, where we couldn't win in the presidential," said Henry Barbour, a Republican national committeeman from Mississippi. "Those governors, they connect with the people, and they do it, really, on a policy basis."

Democrats say the Republican economic approaches in these states simply shift the tax burden from wealthier families to middle-income earners and the poor.

"The more that Republican governors want to highlight the same failed, top-down economic policies that were overwhelmingly rejected by voters in November, the better," said Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association. He called the policies "shell games and gimmicks that reward the wealthiest Americans."

Many of the Republican policies have been met with protests at statehouses and intense criticism from Democrats. But Republicans say it shows a commitment to growing the economy and provides a way to put social issues on the back burner.

Republicans here said the major lessons of 2012 were the damage it caused among Latino voters when Romney urged the "self-deportation" of illegal immigrants, and the alienation among women in states where Republican candidates supported new abortion laws. As they look forward, Republicans say a focus on economy – along with a new tone – is the better way.

"The election was a wake-up call to all of us that we can't continue to be doing what we've been doing and win elections," said Alabama Republican chairman Bill Armistead.

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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)