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Despite historic gains by the GOP in last November’s mid-terms, few would cite the performance of RNC Chairman Michael Steele as being a primary contributor to that success. Rather than debate the merits of Steele, the more relevant question becomes what do Republicans need in a new RNC Chair if they are serious about defeating President Obama in 2012?
If you want to be ahead of curve and dazzle your friends, it would be wise for you to familiarize yourself with Reince Priebus of Wisconsin. Priebus told the RNC last month that he’s running. Hopefully, the RNC will recognize their problems as both real and fixable, and recognize that those problems must be meaningfully and expeditiously addressed in order to defeat Obama in 2012. Based on his experience in Wisconsin, Reince Priebus is uniquely qualified for that mission.
Wisconsin, where Priebus has served as state GOP chair, provides the perfect model the RNC must emulate nationally. Democrats have won the last six Presidential campaigns in Wisconsin. Nationally (and somewhat inaccurately) Wisconsin has a reputation as a Democrat stronghold. Well last month in Wisconsin, under Priebus’ stewardship of the state GOP, Democrats lost the Governor’s office, lost liberal US Senator Russ Feingold, two Congressional seats, and control of both Houses of the state legislature (and the two Democrats who presided over those chambers).
Priebus understands what’s needed at the RNC. He told RNC members that he would keep expenses low, implement strong and serious controls, raise money, regain the confidence of the donor base, and personally call all major donors to bring them back on board confidently supporting the GOP agenda. Priebus’ expressed “big picture” focus on three goals: 1) Defeating President Obama; 2) Keeping and strengthening the House majority; and 3) Winning a meaningful GOP Senate majority.
For many, those would be mere words. But Priebus has a demonstrated record of success to back it up. Most noteworthy, Priebus has the rare ability in this environment to put ego aside in order to get all parties working together to get the job done. He doesn’t look for credit, he just produces results. Priebus is a conservative, has worked with winning conservative candidates, and most significantly he’s worked with the Tea Party in Wisconsin from the start. What was threatening and a source of constant struggle to others, came naturally to Priebus. Priebus’ respect for, and ability to work with the Tea Party significantly contributed to a previously unknown, conservative Tea Party candidate defeating a powerful, 3-term, liberal US Senator who had the President pulling out all stops to help him.
Wisconsin isn’t as much a liberal stronghold as an independent stronghold. On March 20, 1854 the national Republican Party was actually founded in Ripon, Wisconsin by anti-slavery activists. Republicans grew to dominate state politics. Later, that same Party divided and Wisconsin was the place where Progressive politics in the early 20th century were born, championed first by Bob LaFollette and later his sons. This same Progressive movement morphed into what Obama and Company have adopted and expanded. It’s exactly what conservative Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is now fighting. Ever wonder why Ryan understands “progressivism” so well? He learned it in school in Wisconsin. Ryan’s district, where he has been elected overwhelmingly, has gone strongly for Democratic Presidential candidates. The same is true in staunchly Democratic Milwaukee County, where Scott Walker has served as an unapologetic and creative conservative and been reelected overwhelmingly.
Wisconsin was the place of 1950’s anti-communist hysteria championed by US Senator Joseph McCarthy and of violent anti-war protests in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It was where liberal US Senator Gaylord Nelson founded “Earth Day” and that same Nelson was defeated by conservative Bob Kasten. After two terms, Kasten was defeated by liberal Russ Feingold, and we all just saw what happened to him. Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the only city in the country to have elected three Socialist Mayors and yet, it’s also where the nation’s most meaningful school choice programs were born and where former Governor Tommy Thompson ended welfare “as we know it” long before Bill Clinton got the idea.
Wisconsin may skew left, but voters are independent, thoughtful and more than willing to support conservatives — like Scott Walker and Paul Ryan — who meaningfully confront issues. Reince Priebus was born, raised and has succeeded in this environment. Ryan has appeared in Priebus announcement video and Priebus has gotten additional support from Ron Johnson and Scott Walker. Of Priebus, the conservative Walker said: “He is exactly what the national GOP needs — a skilled and proven leader who never forgot the roots of the Party.”
This was cross posted at Pundit League, a lifestyle blogazine for young conservatives. You can find the author on Twitter @PositiveEnerG