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The Next Chairman of the RNC: What GOPers Should Look For.

As we (should) all know, there are six men vying to emerge as the next Chairman of the Republican National Committee after the 29th; MIGOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, former Ohio Secretary of State and Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Blackwell, Chairman of the SCGOP Katon Dawson, the incumbent Mike Duncan, former Chairman of the TNGOP (and Mike Huckabee Campaign Director) Chip Saltsman and former MDGOP Chairman and Lt. Governor Michael Steele.

RNC Chair Candidates

Each of these men have their strengths (yes, even Mike Duncan) and weaknesses.

  • Anuzis is the most tech and new media savvy of the group even though that doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the rest of the MIGOP he leads – the state’s continued change in political coloration to deeper and deeper shades of Blue despite years under a Democratic Administration continues unabated.
  • Blackwell is as solid and accomplished a conservative as one can hope to find, and to his credit he ended being the bane of the OHGOP’s “moderate” establishment under the leadership of Bob DaftTaft – which led to his thoroughly embarassing 24 point loss to Ted Strickland in 2006.
  • Dawson has the most successful record as a party leader of the group and his state remains as strong a Republican bastion as ever, all of which would be more impressive if it weren’t South Carolina.
  • Duncan is a great fundraiser, but 2008 happened under his watch, making my case for me that the Chairman of the RNC should chosen by the base, even if the President is a Republican.
  • Saltsman managed Mike Huckabee’s campaign for the nomination, which may or not show someone with a valuable skill – and second, his record as Chairman (at 30) of the TNGOP is something Anuzis can only envy, but the flap over the Paul Shanklin CD and the fact that he couldn’t foresee how it would be portrayed by the Obamedia is a big strike against him.
  • Steele is the best communicator of the whole bunch and he ran an excellent campaign in 2006, well balanced between attracting swing voters used to voting for Democrats and firing up the GOP base (such as it is) in his state. But his decision to work with Christie Todd Whitman’s Fifth Column group is a major black mark.

What all this proves to me is that biography or popularity really doesn’t mean much.

I therefore urge everyone to take the time to read through the manifestos each of these guys have come up with as their plan/blueprint for getting the GOP back on its feet and factor that into your decision of who to give your support.

Saul Anuzis’ “Blueprint for a GOP Comeback” released since early December can be found here (WARNING: 7MB PDF). Ken Blackwell’s “Plan for a Conservative Resurgence” was released here earlier in the month. Katon Dawson’s “The Dawson Plan” can be downloaded from here. Mike Duncan’s “Plan for the Future” is here. Chip Saltman’s “Plan for Republican Victory” can be found here. And, last but not least, Michael Steele’s “Blueprint for Tomorrow” can be read here.

My thoughts below …


Two things occurred to me after the prospect of a President Barack Obama became a living breathing reality. Mike Duncan (AKA “Who …?”) needed to go, and second, despite the fact that I was livid that President Bush, being his typical politically shortsighted self, didn’t pick Michael Steele to head up the RNC after we got crushed in 2006, my thought was that the next Chairman should not be a Black man. My thinking went that this would only be portrayed and even dismissed by the usual suspects as nothing more than crass pandering and tokenism at its worst in the face of the Democrats giving the nation its first African American President.

I came to my senses not long after though. And not just because part and parcel of being a Republican is the belief that the job should always go to the best man (or woman), but also because the fact is that it wouldn’t matter who we ended up picking, whether Black, White, male or female; if Black and/or female, he/she would be dismissed as a “token” and face the derision and scorn of the Beltway chattering class. And, of course, if we did pick a White male, as sure as night follows day, the GOP would face loud charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, theocracy, etc. from the very same people. So either way, we’re never going to win with the liberal Beltway commentarati. Therefore, why bother?

So as the contenders and the shape of the contest began to come into focus, and after Newt declined to throw his hat into the ring, I counseled myself to be open to everyone (except the aforementioned Mike “Who …?” Duncan), to get thoroughly acquainted with their resumes and qualifications and take a long hard look at their plans for rebuilding our party for the future, and agitate as best I can afterwards to get the people with the vote – the 168 members of the Republican National Committee – to just pick the best of the lot.

The GOP needs a Chairman with the vision, drive and sheer ruthlessness (this last feature is very important) to bring the GOP fully into the world of 21st Century American politics; from the way we recruit our candidates at all levels of government, to the way we campaign, to the way we network and organize our volunteers, to the way we raise money from our donors, to the way we communicate (in and out of campaign season) with the American people. And, yes, this includes the way our people in elected office formulate policy and govern.

It may be fashionable to complain about the “Permanent Campaign” but it’s now a fact of life, and there’s absolutely nothing to be gained by pretending otherwise in a bid to appear “above the fray,” as the recently departed Bush Administration never appeared to comprehend. We need someone with the vision and the ability to restructure and re-organize the party apparatus into a full-scale 24/7/365 political operation with the aim of not just racking up wins on Election Day, but also, in the middle and long term, making us competitive in places long considered impossible for anyone wearing an ‘R’ behind his name.

But that’s just one half of it.

I’ve have said this many times before, and I’m going to say it again; a political party is not a sports team. With a sports team, winning is the end in and of itself, for a political party, winning is just the beginning. After the euphoria of victory comes the work – the reason why you were elected in the first place and the reason why the same people that got you elected the first time would mount up to do it all over again; policy. Make no mistake, Republicans do not walk the precincts, knock on doors, man the phonebanks and donate so much of their time and hard-earned cash for any other reason.

In other words, it is not enough to win at the polls, we also have to win when it comes to the votes on the floors of Congress, the State Legislatures and the City Council. There has to be just as much emphasis on winning on policy as there is on winning seats on Election Day. What is needed is an RNC, together with its state and territory affiliates, that not only recruits good candidates, with the money and organization to get them elected, but that also is there to gin up the public support and the narrative firepower to enact, defend and implement the agenda they were elected on after Election Day is over.

Which is why I am in support of the guy whose Plan happens to most comprehensively address all the issues I’ve raised above; from recruitment, to technology, to communications, to ground operations, fund raising to improving the Party’s relationship with the rank and file; Ken Blackwell. And I hope you all would add your voices to mine and the Directors in support of the former Ohio Treasurer and Secretary of State.

PS: In order of best to {cough} not-the-best “Plan” …
1. Ken Blackwell
2. Saul Anuzis
3. Mike Duncan
4. Katon Dawson
5. Michael Steele
5. Chip Saltsman

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