Since the 2008 Presidential Election, GOP and conservative candidates have been part of an uphill battle to win the respect and votes of their constituents who have turned toward the Democratic or independent parties. 

While many Republican party members have made bumbling attempts at reaching out to Latino, African American and female voters, they have also tried to repair the party's reputation as a no-nonsense one in the wake of a Tea Party insisted government shutdown last fall.

However, one thing has been working for the conservative party so far is its views on criminal justice reform, according to the Washington Post.

The news publication reported that several Southern states' governors have been the loudest voices in the campaign to implement rehabilitation programs to offset high prison costs, ultimately saving the state and prison system money.

Former presidential hopeful and Texas Governor Rick Perry has made headlines this week with his appearance and speeches at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

Perry along with Grover Norquist and numerous other conservatives appeared on a criminal justice reform panel for CPAC on Friday, which drew little attendance, the Post reported.

The Republican Party's messages of money saving and spending cutbacks, while not an entirely new focus, is a new direction for criminal justice reform.  Perry and other republican governors have heavily supported and ran on tough-on-crime platforms in the last decade.

"We're not a soft-on-crime state, you know what I'm saying? ... We're tough on crime," Perry said during his presentation. "But I hope we are also seen as a smart-on-crime state."

Their changing views come as many states face budget issues and desperately need to cut costs. The conservative view now is to decrease the number of inmates who are in jail for nonviolent offenses and remove mandatory minimum sentences for those crimes from the law books.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich are also key supporters of increasing rehabilitation programs toward drug and nonviolent offenders while changing the sentencing structure.

Prior to the criminal justice reform panel, Perry gave an uplifting speech, met with thunderous applause, about the two different directions America could take in the near future. One that is similar to Texas, a red-state with a small government strategy, or one like New York, a blue state.

"The future of America is based on the state vision that wins out," Perry said. "We don't need to change history. We just need to change the presidency."