January 26, 2009

More RNC Chair Endorsements

The endorsement rollout continues, as expected for the week before the vote.

Chip Saltsman takes another huge hit as two of his homestate committee members endorse… Katon Dawson:

Two Republican National Committee members from Tennessee endorse South Carolina GOP Chair Katon Dawson in his bid to be the next RNC Chair: State GOP Chair Robin Smith and National Committeeman John Ryder.

This takes Katon’s total to 19 public endorsements, soldily in second place behind Duncan.

And Ken Blackwell finally got an endorsement from his home state:

The third RNC member from Ohio, Peggy Lambert, endorsed Ken Blackwell.

Remember, the other two members from Ohio have publicly endorsed Mike Duncan. This one takes Blackwell up to 13 public endorsements, leaving him in fifth place. The fun continues! Be sure to read my earlier post for more details on the race.

  12:16 pm RNC Chair  

More Public Endorsements for Duncan, Dawson

Katon scores another public endorsement this morning in the RNC Chair race:

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman, Katon Dawson, has gained another endorsement solidifying him as one of the front runners in the race for Republican National Committee Chairman.

In a letter to RNC members Curly Haugland of North Dakota has thrown his support behind Dawson. Haugland believes that Dawson would be the best choice due to his past performance as Chairman in South Carolina where he was able to significantly increase the number of elected Republican officials.

Mike Duncan also lists 36 public endorsements now on his website, ten more than yourrnc.com is showing, giving him a commanding lead for the first ballot. There were no endorsements on the websites of Anuzis, Steele, Blackwell, or Saltsman that weren’t on yourrnc.com (of course, it didn’t help that Michael Steele’s Media and News pages haven’t been updated since 12/27/08…), leaving the totals looking like this:

  1. Duncan – 36
  2. Dawson – 17
  3. Steele – 15
  4. Anuzis – 15
  5. Blackwell – 12
  6. Saltsman – 0

That totals 94 pledged votes, leaving 74 members publicly uncommitted.

It will be interesting to see which candidate plays the best politics this week in the unrolling of all their endorsements… what will also be interesting is to see who the second choice of the committee members are after nobody wins on the first ballot. Remember, 85 votes are required to win the race. Past RNC Chair races have gone as far as the eighth ballot before a winner was declared.

UPDATE: The actual vote will be this Friday, not on Saturday as earlier reported. Candidates have to turn in their official nominating paperwork on Thursday, and most pundits are now speculating Saltsman won’t even make it on the ballot because nominating paperwork requires that a candidate show the support of at least two committee members from three different states – something that Saltsman clearly doesn’t have (at least publicly). The balloting will begin at 10:30 AM on Friday morning, and the Committee has set aside 6 1/2 hours for the process.

UPDATE 2: According to Human Events, which claims to have some inside knowledge of the non-public endorsements, the race stands as follows (public and private endorsements included):

Duncan – “40 something”
Dawson – “35 or more”
Anuzis – “mid 20s”
Steele – “low to mid 20s”
Blackwell – “12 to 15″

Take it with a grain of salt.

  11:14 am RNC Chair  

January 24, 2009

RNC Chairman Race Update

Just one week to go until the Republican Party chooses its new chairman… the Committee votes on January 31. In an interview with RealClearPolitics, national committeeman Ron Kaufman (a Duncan supporter) estimated that “it now stands as a four way tie between Duncan, Steele, Katon Dawson, and Saul Anuzis.”

Notice Blackwell and Saltsman’s absence in that list.

By my estimation, that’s a good thing for the party.

Part of the trouble for Blackwell is springing from the fact that his own Ohio RNC members aren’t even endorsing him. Two of the Ohio delegation have endorsed Mike Duncan and the others remain publicly uncommitted.

In other endorsement news, Katon Dawson is picking up steam – and shedding the “he only plays in the south” label – by picking up the public endorsement of all three committee members from Pennsylvania. He’s also been touting his Project 3141 plan as of late – his plan to revitalize the GOP in each of the 3,141 counties in America. That’s some real bottom-up, grassroots renewal and one of the many reasons I endorsed him for Chair.

There’s a great new website out at yourrnc.com that is tracking the public endorsements each candidate is receiving – go check it out. The current standing is:

  1. Duncan – 25
  2. Dawson – 16
  3. Steele – 15
  4. Anuzis – 15
  5. Blackwell – 12
  6. Saltsman – 0

P.S For those who would dismiss Dawson by saying, “oh, he’s from South Carolina – really difficult to win down there, isn’t it?” I would say to you – South Carolina is a reliably red state at least in part due to Dawson’s leadership. When he took over the state party in 2002, it was facing over $300,000 in debt as well as a $160,000 FEC. Dawson’s fundraising ability eliminated the debt, paid the fine, and funded all of the state races to the point where Republicans defeated an incumbent Democratic Governor and won back the GOP Senate seat. After 2002, the state GOP controlled the Governor’s mansion and the two state houses for the first time in 125 years. Two years later, the Dawson-led party won the other Senate seat, defeating an incumbent Democratic Senator and giving Jim DeMint his seat. And in 2006, Sanford of course won re-election and the GOP won 8 out of the 9 statewide offices. That’s a record of winning that I want to see on a national level.

On the other hand, for an editorial of why I am not supporting Saul Anuzis for RNC chair, including his not-quite-so-good record in Michigan, keep reading below the fold.

  5:38 pm RNC Chair, Uncategorized  

Mike Duncan’s Big Endorsements

Anti-Duncan Flyer

A clever attackposter by an unknown opponent of RNC Chairman Mike Duncan that works because it’s so true. (Hat Tip: Townhall.)

  1:17 am RNC Chair  

January 16, 2009

Steele Makes Progress

A dozen RNC members have come out to endorse Michael Steele for the Republican National Committee chairmanship and have pledged to help build support for his bid.

They come — oh no! — from blue states and swing states, mostly. You know, states we need to try and win back, like Wisconsin and Florida.

Is Michael Steele the frontrunner?

Steele is one of half a dozen candidates looking to lead the GOP. A CNN tally of public supports shows that 22 RNC members are publicly backing the national party’s current chair, Mike Duncan; Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis has 13 public commitments; South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawon, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Steele all have 12 announced endorsements. Former Tennessee Republican Party Chair Chip Saltsman has none.

A Steele political advisor tells CNN that the former lieutenant governor has “31 hard commitments” from RNC members. It is difficult to judge true support for any one of these candidates because it is a secret ballot, but political observers view Steele as a serious contender for the top spot.

We’ll find out in a couple of weeks…

Alex Knepper can be contacted at apkkib@aol.com.

  3:12 am RNC Chair  

January 9, 2009

And the Rest

In my endorsement of Ken Blackwell yesterday, I decided to leave the other candidates out of it and reserve my comments on why I didn’t endorse the other candidates for another day.

As I make these comments, I don’t think any of these guys are bad people who’ll destroy the party, but they’re the wrong choice to build it back up. Here are my reasons for my non-endorsements.

Chip Saltsman and Katon Dawson: I actually like both of these guys. I think they’ve been given a bum rap on some dubious racial charges. That said, I don’t think they seriously have a shot at taking the job. The RNC doesn’t want the media to have a “racist” RNC Chairman meme to run with the next two to four years, no matter how flimsy charge.

Mike Duncan: Want to send America and the GOP base a message that you’ve learned nothing from losing seven (probably eight) senate seats and twenty-one house seats? Try re-electing the same Senate leader, the same House leader, and then to top it off, put the same guy back in charge of the RNC. Duncan’s run is unprecedented and that it has a chance to succeed shows how troubled the GOP. We need fresh blood.

Saul Anuzis: Saul Anuzis knows how to use Twitter. So do you several other million people. The challenge is not to use new technology but to leverage as a tool for political success. Can Anuzis do that? Judging by the results of his leadership in Michigan I have to say no. Show me that you can turn around a state before you try and argue that you can change the course of the national party.

Michael Steele: I like Michael Steele, but his leadership on the moderate “Republican Leadership Council” as well as his response to being challenged on it are trouble for his candidacy. Nothing has really changed what I wrote a month ago, quoting Steele’s own comment to CBN News:

Wake up people. I mean, what are you going to do? Are you going to kick these folks out of the party? I have watched this party self disintegrate for the last four or five years. I’ve watched this party isolate itself from itself.

This may be a unique opportunity to build a relationship or a bridge between the conservatives and the moderates in our party and so she asked me to serve on her board and I said well this will be good. It’ll be a pro-life conservative voice on a board with a pro-choice leadership that is looking to elect moderates. We have to elect moderates in the party.

For all you little folks out there who think that you’ve got me on this: you don’t. My being on this board had nothing to do with lessening my conservative values or somehow appeasing them or compromising them. It had everything to do with reasserting them.

Let me give a conservative assessment: What Steele said here is the equivalent of John McCain’s GOPAC statement: “Calm down.” Ultimately, this doesn’t explain the objection. In the video, he compares his service on the board of the Republican Leadership Council to appearing on Bill Maher. Bill Maher isn’t a Republican moderate who aims to “reclaim the Republican Party.” Nor to go on Bill Maher does it require you partner up with Planned Parenthood and the Log Cabin Republicans.

Steele will enter with far more mistrust than any candidate than perhaps Duncan. We don’t need a party chairman that the base of the party is lukewarm to.

Other than winning one election of his own in Maryland in a Republican year (2002), he has no real track record of success to indicate that he’ll be able to rally the GOP base in the same way that Blackwell would.

  12:02 am RNC Chair  

January 8, 2009

The Man to Bring Back the GOP

At long last, I’m going to announce my choice for Republican Party Chairman. I will not talk about the five candidates I choose not to support at this time. We’ll dish at another time. However, let’s take a look at something that I and most conservatives got wrong.

After the 2004 elections, the Democrats made what most of us thought was a bone-headed choice in selecting big-mouthed loose cannon Howard Dean to run the Democratic Party. We rubbed our hands together to enjoy the series of meltdowns, oh, and Howard Dean had his share.

Yet, we have to say without reservation that Dr. Dean has had one of the most successful party chairmanships of recent years with a solid 50-state strategy that was derided by both left and right. Why did Dean succeed?

First, was that he had a sound strategy and good vision.

Secondly, while some party insiders didn’t believe in him, the grassroots Democrats did, many of whom would be the foot soldiers in the Obama campaign. In a Washington, DC that was led by the hapless Ms. Pelosi and the inept Mr. Reid, Howard Dean got Democrats engaged and believing in the party again. He found the folks who brought the party back in many states, regions, and districts that have left the GOP shellshocked.

The Real Crisis

The Republicans are behind in money, technology, and in reaching out to minorities. But ultimately the GOP doesn’t face a crisis on any of these points.

The GOP crisis is one far more fundamental. It’s a crisis of trust. The proud Republican is a dying breed, limited to Lincoln Day Dinner attendees. Most meetings of grassroots Republicans where politics are discussed begin with the understanding that the party is messed up, dysfunctional, and broken. The only disagreements are how bad, why it happened, and how to fix it.

The idea of the GOP reaching out, adding to its membership, seems rather silly. If it’s own membership is increasingly unenthusiastic, demoralized, and disgusted with its leadership and its direction, how are they going to attract others to join? It’s like trying to be the booster club for the Detroit Tigers. People won’t work their heart out for a party they don’t believe in. They won’t give during a time of economic hardship. They won’t engage.

In the Democratic Party, when demoralization happens, it isn’t so bad. They have Unions that will squeeze people’s paychecks. They build dependency and have constituents who are beholden to them no matter how poor a job they do. There is not compulsion and guaranteed money to move a GOP that has lost its very soul. 

The GOP’s success is not a one man show. It can’t be solved by being a great cable TV show guest. It can’t even be solved with a great plan to bring the party back. Any plan that doesn’t include and bring about an enthused grassroots that will implement the plan is worthless.

The GOP base needs to be engaged and brought into the fight. They need to be told that the GOP shares their values and is more than a bunch of power-grubbing White Males in their 50s and 60s working out their own personal issues with a grasping quest for power.

We need to prove to the base that the GOP is worth their time, their money, and their energy. If we fail to, all the rest is irrelevant. While the party needs to reach out, it must have an energized base. Because swing voters won’t get a party and its members to the polls.

I want to be proud to be a Republican again. I want to be part of a party that stands for things rather than just against things. I want to be part of a party that understands the world we live in, incumbent with all of its dangers, and offers solutions. This will not happen without a fundamental change in direction.  We need one leader that we can actually trust.

While I believe there are many fine gentlemen running for Chairman, the man who can best bring our party through these next four years is Ken Blackwell.

Ken Blackwell would bring an exceptional dedication to the position of RNC Chairman. His commitment to both fiscal and social conservative values is outstanding. I was initially critical of Blackwell’s support, because it seemed entirely ideological, but through the course of this campaign, he’s shown himself intelligent and thoughtful. He has run a positive campaign that has gained increasing momentum.

He has presented a solid plan for our party’s future. Blackwell’s plan includes key elements like strengthening the party in the midwest, the Northeast, and the South, reaching out to minorities, and embracing new technologies. However, he understands the future of the GOP is in a confident conservative agenda that makes its case to the American people. Blackwell also writes, “We must take a stand against corruption, Republican or Democrat. We can no longer be critical of Democrats while turning a blind eye to scandals and corruption amongst our own.”

In a political process where ethics is often something we expect other people to have, Blackwell’s got the right idea, and it’s a necessary turn for the GOP to take.

I believe Ken Blackwell is the best man to lead the RNC and I give him my unconditional endorsement.

  12:57 am RNC Chair  

December 31, 2008

Maybe, It Helped Saltsman…Nah

The Politico reports that the “Barack: The Magic Negro” CD controversy may have helped Saltsman. I’m skeptical, but they have several members of the RNC offering a defense of sorts:

“When I heard about the story I had to figure out what was going on for myself,” said Mark Ellis, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party. “When I found out what this was about I had to ask, ‘boy, what’s the big deal here?’ because there wasn’t any.”

Alabama Republican committeeman Paul Reynolds said the fact the Saltsman sent him a CD with the song on it “didn’t bother me one bit.”

“Chip probably could have thought it through a bit more, but he was doing everyone a favor by giving us a gift,” he said. “This is just people looking for something to make an issue of.”

“I don’t think he intended it as any kind of racial slur. I think he intended it as a humor gift,” Oklahoma GOP committeewoman Carolyn McClarty added. “I think it was innocently done by Chip.”

Maybe, the Politico knows something it’s not reporting, but none of these statements seem like overwhelming votes of confidence for Saltsman. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see any way Saltsman pulls this out or survives past the second ballot.  However, this flap has clearly been a boon to Ken Blackwell:

As a result of his position, a source close to the race said that at least 12 uncommitted committee members have contacted Blackwell to thank him for his support for Saltsman and have expressed anger toward Duncan and Anuzis “for throwing a good Republican under the bus.”

12 is a little less than 1/7th of what Blackwell needs to claim the Chairmanship.  And let there be no doubt, this has wounded Saul Anuzis and Chairman Mike Duncan:

“Those are two guys who just eliminated themselves from this race for jumping all over Chip on this,” one committee member told Politico. “Mike Duncan is a nice guy, but he screwed up big time by pandering to the national press on this…”

In calls to committee members in recent days, both Saltsman and Blackwell have been reminding Republicans of how both Duncan and Anuzis reacted to the story.

“I wasn’t angered by what Mike had said, it was just revealing to me how each one responded,” said Ellis of Maine, who as an uncommitted member received calls from all six candidates Monday. “Their responses were kind of a surprise to me because I saw it as something that was not an issue, something that was manufactured from outside the committee.”

This process of electing a chairman is micropolitics. It doesn’t really matter what the bloggers think or the opinion of outside political leaders. What matters is what’s going on with the 168 members of the RNC and this is an issue that both Saltsman and Blackwell see as pay dirt, because Duncan’s response came off poorly with members of the Commitee.  Whatever damage occurred to Saltsman, rather than adding to that damage, Duncan’s statement wounded his own campaign. Rather than coming off as strong and in charge, he came off as a weak panderer to his fellow Committeeman.

  1:51 am RNC Chair  

December 29, 2008

Saltsman Campaign Shook

Chip Saltsman sent a CD by Paul Shanklin that was a compilation of parodies, many of which appeared on the Rush Limbaugh program including the Limbaugh favorite, “Barack: The Magic Negro.”

Numerous myths are floating around about this. This is not a CD that Saltsman “compiled” as one news report said as if Saltsman burned the CD of his favorite songs. “Barack: The Magic Negro” was not even the title track of Paul Shanklin’s CD. It was smack in the middle of the CD at Track 16.

Paul Shanklin didn’t coin the term “Magic Negro.” It was African American writer David Ehrenstein, writing for the LA Times who first referred to Obama as a “Magic Negro” in March 2007 and suggested he was a less authentic Black person than Al Sharpton or Snoop Dogg. Saltsman has correctly pointed out that Ehrenstein’s original piece was not criticized. The song is not so much a riff on Obama as it is Ehrenstein’s column and Al Sharpton. Paul Shanklin pushed the envelope of satire a tad too far, but it’s not “Birth of the Nation” or anything near the racial severity it’s being made out to be.

That said, Saltsman is most likely done as a serious contender for RNC Chairman. He may remain in to save face or to be a power broker in the final outcome, but he will not win. While Saltsman has some crackerjack ideas for improving the Republican Party, the hits he’s taken over the past couple of days from within the party have been too hard for him to hope of gathering enough support to lead the Republican Party. Most members are the RNC are not going to want to spend the next two years explaining this issue.

There are many knaves and losers in this affair, and only one winner. So let’s break down:


Whoever leaked this story: Saltsman didn’t post Shanklin’s song on his website. He sent the CD out to 168 members of the RNC. That means someone who was a recipient of the CD went to the press about it. We would not be talking about this had someone not leaked the CD.

The results of the story: putting Republican Party members at each other’s throats. Many members of the huge Rush Limbaugh audience were not feeling happy with the GOP and this doesn’t help. In addition, RNC members need to be able to be free to express their opinions. With knowledge that a blabbermouth is in the room, expect people to be guarded and meetings of the RNC to more closely resemble episodes of Babylon 5 than a real working political party.

In order to score points against Saltsman (or one of Saltsman’s former clients), whoever leaked this story: created several news cycles of bad PR for the party, put different factions of the party at odds, and have hindered the effectiveness of the RNC. Heck of a job, Mister or Miss Slash and Burn. Hope you’re proud of yourself, wherever you are.

Mike Duncan and Saul Anuzis: The incumbent RNC Chairman screamed outrage” at the top of his lungs, as did Saul Anuzis. Declared Duncan, “I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction.

Shocked and appalled? Which is worse? That Saltsman sent out a CD with the song on it privately to 168 members of the RNC, or that the biggest conservative talk show in America has played the song, about 1,000 times? Either Duncan is so incredibly out of touch with the grassroots of the party that neither he nor anyone on his staff with good sense knows what’s happening on the Rush Limbaugh program, or he’s saved his outrage for now like a good hypocrite. Take your pick, or maybe it’s a combination of both.

As for Saul Anuzis, he said, “Just as important, anything that paints the GOP as being motivated in our criticism of President-elect Obama by anything other than a difference in philosophy does a disservice to our party.” Only the title of the CD paints this picture. While others haven’t listened to the song, Anuzis, as someone who actually has a copy of the CD, really has no excuse for not knowing what the song’s about. And again, where was this outrage when this was playing non-stop on Rush.


Chip Saltsman:

Some would put Saltsman in the knave category. Everyone who does this seems to think that they would have known Track 16 of 41 would ignite into a national controversy. While there were clearly safer gifts than the Shanklin CD, like bath towels, Saltsman thought he’d go for something the political types would enjoy.

However, whether deserved or not, Saltsman is done as a viable candidate for RNC Chairman. The Shanklin CD will follow him wherever he goes and will be a story whenever he joins a campaign for anywhere between a few hours and a day.

Conservative Satire

My brother has often told me that conservatives need an answer to the Daily Show, a satirical counterpunch to Jon Stewart. This story is an illustration of why that is unlikely to happen. While I’ll admit that Shanklin’s parody was beyond the pale, the decision of some on the right to act as if he burned a cross on an African American’s lawn illustrates why there’s a satire deficit. Those who attempt satire on the right are either idiots who think being offensive for its own sake is hilarious, or they’re so banal in their satire they offend no one and entertain no one.

Satirists on the left can get away with far more on the right even with their own side. On Obama’s visit to Germany, Jon Stewart remarked that seeing hundreds of thousands of screaming Germans cheering for a Charismatic leader “gives me goosesteps-I mean goosebumps.” Try making that type of joke on the right and you’ll be drowned in press releases from conservatives calling for you to be imprisoned.

Conservatives need to develop some sense of proportionality. Until then, expect people on the right to be afflicted by lame things such as the “Half Hour Newshour”


Ken Blackwell. Ken Blackwell issued the following statement on this matter:

“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president. I don’t think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.”

Matt Lewis over at AOL suggests that Blackwell’s move is a stroke of political genius:

First, it is important to note that only 168 RNC Members get to cast votes, and presumably, many of them are conservatives who will view Duncan’s statement as pandering to the politically correct crowd. Some of them may have been supporting Saltsman or Dawson, after all, as well. They will object to Duncan’s criticism, and possibly view it as appeasement…

Lastly, and ironically, it may prove the point that the GOP desperately needs an African-American to serve as the face of the GOP as we go head-to-head against the first African-American President in U.S. History. After all, Blackwell was able to get away with defending Saltsman, whereas a white candidate may not have been able to do the same.… Having known Blackwell a bit, I can tell you that this move was consistent with his core beliefs. He has never played the race card — or the “reverse” race card — even when it would have helped him — and I do believe he views this as having been an instance of, “hypersensitivity.”

Having said that, coming to Saltsman’s defense will likely also prove to be a brilliant political stroke which may propel him to the head of the RNC.


Lewis is right. And I think there’s another reason Blackwell may be helped. Whoever gets elected RNC Chairman will need to lead the whole party. The type of response Duncan and Anuzis has issued will make it very hard for them to unite the party and will lead to them being sniped at in talk-radio-land and looked on with a great amount of distrust among the base. Blackwell’s statement is graceful and avoids picking a fight. The vote for Chairman will require a majority support, which means that if Saltsman and Katon Dawson are trailing after the first ballot, their support will end up going elsewhere, and Blackwell’s set himself up to be the recipient of that support.

Bottom line: Saltsman’s loss is Blackwell’s gain. I was skeptical of Blackwell’s candidacy, but his savvy response coupled with numerous recent endorsements from members of the RNC indicates that Blackwell has become a top tier candidate.

  11:35 pm RNC Chair  

December 17, 2008

May We Now Lay to Rest the Katon Dawson is a Racist Meme?

I’ve got to admit that while I’ve generally given Katon Dawson the benefit of the doubt on his membership in a “Whites Only” golf club, I have to admit I wondered how Katon didn’t notice that the golf club looked a lot like an episode of the Andy Griffith show. Jim Geraghty did some digging and came up with a reasonable explanation (Hat Tip: Red State.)

George Bunch, the president of the club, said that the deed’s restriction has been “invalid” since 1964 (under the Civil Rights Act). Nonetheless, the club has no African-American members, and Bunch said that to his knowledge, no African-American has been put up for membership. However, members do invite African-American guests regularly, and so on any given day, it is common to see African-Americans on the golf course, in the clubhouse, at club events, and so on.

Dawson says he actually played golf with African-Americans at the club. So his explanation that he did not know of the discriminatory language in the deed during the twelve years of his membership would appear to hold water; if someone saw African-Americans around the country club, one could reasonably assume they were members.

So Dawson frequently saw African Americans around the club. It really doesn’t sound like there was anything that would have given him a hint that there was an all-white policy. Doubtless, some will argue that Dawson should have carefully reviewed the deed to make sure that there was no restriction on African American membership. Any of you do that when you join a club?

Look, Katon Dawson may not be your first choice for Chairman, but do we really have to slam the guy as a racist? There’s a reasonable explanation for what happened at the country club. The club didn’t look like an episode of Andy Griffith. He had no reason to suspect there was an all-white policy. In addition, Dawson’s record as chairman of the South Carolina GOP is one of inclusion, helping to recruit a young black man who became South Carolina Republican National Committeeman, as well helping elect a black man and a Vietnamese woman to the South Carolina legislature. Here’s a chairman who is actually practicing inclusion in a Southern state with a significant Black population and some people are ready to rip the guy apart as closet Klansman without even listening to his case. No wonder the GOP is called the stupid party.

  9:55 am RNC Chair  

December 16, 2008

RNC Chairman Race Update

Two minor housekeeping items on the race for RNC Chairman:

 Chuck Yob, the Republican National Committeeman from Michigan had been a rumored candidate from the RNC Chairman against fellow Michiganer Saul Anuzis. Yob is endorsing Ken Blackwell.  This is a pretty firm public slap to Anuzis and a boost to Blackwell. (Hat Tip: Campaign Spot.)

South Carolina Party Chairman Katon Dawson picked up the endorsement of Dr. Ada Fischer, the Republican National Committeewoman from North Carolina and one of three African-American members of the Republican Nation Committee. Glenn McCall, another African American member of the RNC from South Carolina has prasied Dawson’s and defended Dawson on belonging to a country club that did not accept minorities:

A few months ago, a local newspaper wrote an article about a country club where Katon was a member. The article pointed out that the club did not have any minority members. There was some confusion about whether or not it was club policy or a longstanding deed that prohibited minority members — none of that really matters. What matters is this: Katon Dawson tried to change the club’s practices to allow minority members. When he realized that things were not likely to change, Katon resigned his membership.

Sadly, Katon’s opponents are trying to use the fact that he was a member of this country club to disqualify him from serving as RNC Chair.

It shouldn’t. I believe it won’t.

I see what Katon did as evidence of his commitment to including and involving people from all walks of life and all races. Katon took a stand for what was right. He stood up in front of his friends at the club and told them what they were doing was wrong, and when they refused to change, he decided to leave. I’m not saying that Katon deserves a medal for the courage he showed that day, but I do think this one incident revealed the depths of Katon’s personal commitment to inclusion.

McCall was recruited into the GOP and mentored by Dawson. In addition, South Carolina elected its first Black Republican in modern times under Dawson as well as an Indian-American State Representative. Dawson’s record is sound and with McCall as a character witness, I don’t think the unfortunate country club incident will present a problem.

One thing people need to understand is the election of RNC Chairman will require a majority vote, which means this race will shrink to a top two afther a few ballots. I think Saul Anuzis and Mike Duncan will draw from the same pool of RNC Members who are going to be more establishment-minded, while Saltsman, Dawson, and Blackwell will draw more conservative support. Michael Steele will probably draw some support from both sides. My personal hope is that the winner be from the conservative pod.

  1:45 am RNC Chair  

December 10, 2008

And Then There Were Six…

One more and we can have a “Seven Dwarves” story line here:

The race for chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC) just got more crowded. Current chairman, Mike Duncan, announced he is seeking another two-year term.

In an e-mail to RNC members, Duncan said, this morning, he was optimistic about the future of the GOP. He added he was “proud of RNC accomplishments in fund raising, technology and grassroots in the past two years.”

The article goes on to mention that under Duncan’s tenure, the GOP lost seven Senate seats and 20 House seats, as well as the White House. Not a highly impressive resume to run for re-election on. Duncan is helped, however, by the more recent wins in the Georgia runoff and LA-2 and LA-4 contests.

Since nearly every thread on this subject has a comment with this question, it’s only the 168 committeemen and women of the RNC that vote on this race, and they will vote January 28 as part of their Winter meeting. 85 votes are required to win the seat. So if you want to try and influence this race, find out who your state committee members are and contact them.

FWIW, my top two picks are Dawson and Saltsman. Katon understands vision casting and communication better than anyone in the race and Chip has a grasp and history of grassroots organization that exceeds his competitors’. In my opinion (and it is just my opinion), Blackwell is far too divisive, Anuzis has a horribly dismal track record managing the MI GOP, Duncan obviously has failed over his tenure, and Steele is too moderate/liberal on issues such as guns, death penalty, government spending, welfare, and affirmative action as well as questionable at best on pro-life issues.

  3:19 pm Republican Party, RNC Chair  

RNC Chairman Update

Rather than making dozens of posts about the RNC Chairman’s race, let me make a summary:

Alex Knepper was quite thrilled by Michael Steele’s statement to CBN news regarding his membership in the Republican Leadership Council:

Wake up people. I mean, what are you going to do? Are you going to kick these folks out of the party? I have watched this party self disintegrate for the last four or five years. I’ve watched this party isolate itself from itself.

This may be a unique opportunity to build a relationship or a bridge between the conservatives and the moderates in our party and so she asked me to serve on her board and I said well this will be good. It’ll be a pro-life conservative voice on a board with a pro-choice leadership that is looking to elect moderates. We have to elect moderates in the party.

For all you little folks out there who think that you’ve got me on this: you don’t. My being on this board had nothing to do with lessening my conservative values or somehow appeasing them or compromising them. It had everything to do with reasserting them.

Let me give a conservative assessment: What Steele said here is the equivalent of John McCain’s GOPAC statement: “Calm down.” Ultimately, this doesn’t explain the objection. In the video, he compares his service on the board of the Republican Leadership Council to appearing on Bill Maher. Bill Maher isn’t a Republican moderate who aims to “reclaim the Republican Party.” Nor to go on Bill Maher does it require you partner up with Planned Parenthood and the Log Cabin Republicans.

Bottom line: If Steele is elected, he’s going to enter as RNC Chairman with a higher level of distrust from the base than other candidates for Chairmen. It may have inspired Alex, but Steele’s answer is a turn off to base conservatives who are already turned off.

Contrary to Alex’s suggestion, the GOP hasn’t been running Tom Coburns in Massachusetts. Indeed there was a pretty strong grassroots effort online to support pro-choice Jim Ogonowski against Kitty Tsongas in 2007. Name the Arch-Conservative nominated in Connecticut or Massachusetts or Rhode Island that lost in a winnable district. In fact the NRSC spent millions of dollars to save the worthless hide of Liberal Republican Lincoln Chafee. The Republican Party has not been shy nominating moderates, including in areas where a conservative could win. Moderates have not won because of an increasing liberal tilt of their district. An example that Steele cited in his case for moderates, Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-MD) got defeated 6 years ago.  


Two endorsements in the RNC Chairman race. Bill Bennett endorsed Michael Steele while Steve Forbes endorsed Ken Blackwell. The Bennett endorsement means squat. Bennett doesn’t command a large national movement, but is a lesser version of Michael Medved and occasional talk show guest. Steve Forbes has money and ran for President in a campaign that Blackwell played a key role in in 2000.

Let’s remember this. This will not be put to an online poll. Nor will anyone else be asked other than the members of the RNC regarding the fate of the candidates. Celebrity endorsements will mean squat. In both letters, no real appeal is made. I think supporters of Blackwell and Steele may be in for a shock when we get around to voting.


Seperating fact from gripe with Saul Anuzis is kind of hard. The fact is that a lot of the home folks in Michigan are ticked off with him. A disgruntled Senate candidate send out a letter to RNC members dishing on Anuzis. When you cut through all the gossip, you’re left with some basic salient facts:

1) Since Saul Anuzis became Chairman, Michigan Republicans have lost 17 Republican-held State House seats, two incumbent Republican members of Congress, four Republican held University board seats, numerous open seats, and an incumbent Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He has not won a single targeted race since becoming Chairman.

So why the heck is being considered for Chairman again? Even his much touted social networking and online skills are being attacked. While the person raising the argument  (Hat Tip: Townhall.) is biased (a big time booster for Mike Duncan) there’s some truth in it. I’ve got to tell you: I’m not impressed that the Michigan GOP has a You Tube channel with 3 videos all of which are about a year old. It’s a great idea to have a chairman from a traditionally Democratic State. It’s a terrible idea to have a chairman who pretty much has failed as a State Chairman. Why are we going to give him an opportunity to screw up on the national level, too?


Chip Saltsman is sending signals to anyone who might be hesitant to support him because of his work for Huckabee:

“[The Huckabee campaign] is part of my resume but it doesn’t define me politically,” Saltsman explained. “I’m not sure if you look at my history that you’d think I was a Huckabee guy. You could just as easily say I’m a Bob Corker guy, a Lamar Alexander guy or a Frist guy.”

He also noted his strong leadership against his political mentor Governor Don Sundquist on the state income tax issue shortly after becoming chair of the Tennessee Republican Party as evidence that he is a man willing to go against politicians he may be associated with.

Saltsman certainly made no apologies for his association with Huckabee and spoke with pride of his “13 months” on the campaign but he did make sure to put a bit of distance between himself and the Huckabee message. Saltsman made it plain that he was a straight politics guy in his role as campaign manager — a hired hand — not the idea man.

“Mike Huckabee was responsible for the issues in that campaign, not me,” Saltsman said.

The RNC definitely doesn’t want a Chairman whose goal is to promote a Presidential Candidate and I think people with that concern will find Saltsman’s re-assuring. Saltsman biggest challenge is that he’s not a member of the RNC.

Many consider that a key requirement and if that’s the case Katon Dawson, Mike Duncan, and Saul Anuzis have to be considered frontrunners, but I wouldn’t count out Saltsman entirely.

  12:28 am RNC Chair  

December 9, 2008

Saltsman Makes it Official

Chip Saltsman makes his run for RNC Chair official:

Chip Saltsman, former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and more recently campaign manager for the Mike Huckabee for President effort, officially declared his candidacy today to become chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The announcement took place in the office of Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, who was on hand along with former U.S. Senator Bill Frist to endorse Saltsman.

Ramsey stated that Republicans in Tennessee have the majority because Saltsman wouldn’t take no for an answer and laid the foundation for their recent successes.

“If not for Chip,” Ramsey said, “Al Gore would have been elected president but instead Tennessee went for George W. Bush in 2000.”

Saltsman served as chair for Tennessee Republicans during the 2000 campaign cycle.

Frist said that he often asked how Tennessee bucked the national Democratic tide this past election cycle and said, “People say ‘what’s in the water in Tennessee?’ The quickest most succinct answer I can give is Chip Saltsman.”

After thanking Ramsey and Frist for their support, Saltsman said that the way Republicans can win nationally is to stay true to their “good conservative message.” He added that the GOP brand is not what it should be right now and “our actions have not matched our words.” If elected, Saltsman said that the first thing he would do is to “take the members only sign off of the country club.”

That officially makes five: Steele, Anuzis, Dawson, Blackwell, and Saltsman. Duncan will most likely be running for re-election as well.

A quick take on the race? Anuzis might be in the best position, despite his ridiculously poor record in managing the MI GOP and lack of forward-thinking vision. Steele and Blackwell will probably split the votes of those thinking we need as new a face of the party as possible while Dawson and Saltsman split the southern vote leaving Anuzis to pick up the rest. What is still a wild card is just how much support Duncan actually has in the party should he choose to seek re-election.

In other RNC Chair news, Steve Forbes has endorsed Blackwell for the position, while William Bennett has endorsed Michael Steele. Both have sent letters to all the committeemen and women explaining why.

  11:41 pm Republican Party, RNC Chair  

December 8, 2008

It’s Time for Steele

I’ve been skeptical of Michael Steele’s run for the RNC Chairmanship because it seemed that a lot of people were jumping on board with him merely because he has star power and, of course, is black. Now, these factors do matter: it’s important now, more than ever, to convince the public that the GOP is not just, as Howard Dean phrased it, a “white Christian party” and that we’re open to centrists, pragmatism, and ‘smart government’ rather than just small government with a dash of theocracy. Is Steele really the man to do that? There are other smaller names with a tad more recent experience on the ground level.

But my skepticism is just about dead. Michael Steele has now convinced me that he “gets it” and that he’s ready to work to expand the GOP’s tent. There will be no silly, counterproductive purges promoted under a Steele chairmanship and his voice will be one of reason and majority-party-building.

Look at how he responds to his critics’ arguments that his role in reviving the moderate Republican Leadership Council should disqualify him:

Wake up people. I mean, what are you going to do? Are you going to kick these folks out of the party? I have watched this party self disintegrate for the last four or five years. I’ve watched this party isolate itself from itself.

This may be a unique opportunity to build a relationship or a bridge between the conservatives and the moderates in our party and so she asked me to serve on her board and I said well this will be good. It’ll be a pro-life conservative voice on a board with a pro-choice leadership that is looking to elect moderates. We have to elect moderates in the party.

For all you little folks out there who think that you’ve got me on this: you don’t. My being on this board had nothing to do with lessening my conservative values or somehow appeasing them or compromising them. It had everything to do with reasserting them.

Love it!

MatthewK, in the comments section, wrote that “reaching out” to moderates has to mean that we’re reaching from somewhere: from the right. Otherwise, it isn’t reaching out, but aligning. But this presents a false dichotomy. We can encompass all sorts of political ideologies by eliminating litmus tests for candidates, running Republicans that fit each specific area of the country (that is: stop running Tom Coburns in Massachusetts and stop “primarying” our moderates!), and actually showing centrists that they have a seat at the table. “Reaching out” can’t mean merely asking them to vote for us becauase we need more votes to win. We need, like our president-elect is doing, to give them a seat at the table. Some candidates get it, some don’t. Steele gets it.

(Contact: apkkib@aol.com)

  8:33 pm RNC Chair  

Morton Blackwell’s Questionaire to RNC Chair Candidates

RNC member and conservative lion Morton Blackwell has published a set of 37 questions for perspective candidates in the RNC Chair race. I have reprinted the full letter below the fold.

For fun, choose one or two of the questions that you feel are the most crucial and post your response in the comments.


  11:36 am RNC Chair  

Blackwell Officially Enters RNC Chair Race

This race is getting interesting… here’s a letter Ken Blackwell has sent to the RNC committee members and released to the press:

After prayerful consideration, I have decided to become a candidate for Chairman of the Republican National Committee. I write today to ask for your vote and endorsement.

I reside in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I formerly served as a council member and mayor. Afterwards, I ran four times for statewide office in Ohio. I was elected as State Treasurer once and Secretary of State twice … and lost a race for governor. Including primaries, I have run for public office 17 times, winning on 13 of those occasions.

I am a member of the board of directors of the National Rifle Association, the National Taxpayers Union and the Club for Growth.

The RNC needs a more basic and more comprehensive change of course than my competitors have thus far presented or, frankly, envisioned.

It is time to completely remake the Republican Party by returning to our core philosophy (limited government, traditional values and a strong defense), reaching voters more effectively (by better utilization of technology, targeting and voter identification and turnout), and
reorganizing the RNC itself (spending smarter, replacing staff and consultants and modernizing our fundraising infrastructure).

Voter registration must be a major emphasis for the Republican Party. Of course, we start at a competitive disadvantage with the Democrats and ACORN since we are strictly limited to registering people who actually exist. But here is an outline of how we can catch up:

Hire a large team of coordinators to work with churches across the country to help them register the members of their congregations who are not registered to vote.

Expend an unprecedented amount of RNC funding to build vibrant College Republican chapters on every major university campus in the nation and use those chapters as a base to register young people to join the Republican Party.

Hire teams of workers to walk door-to-door in targeted neighborhoods to register voters.

Honestly, I was with him until the very end there. Then it kind of crashed and burned for me.

Who would have thought three or four years ago that we would have an RNC Chair race between Michael Steele, Ken Blackwell, Katon Dawson, and Saul Anuzis – with Chip Saltsman waiting to officially jump in as well?

In other RNC Chair news, Mike Duncan has written an Op-Ed piece for Politico outlining his accomplishments as Chair and claiming they are the way to move the party forward, in the strongest indication yet that he is likely to seek re-election.

Also, five state GOP chairs have endorsed Anuzis’ candidacy: the chairs from CT, NE, NV, NJ, and the Virgin Islands.

Again, the committee members vote in January.

  1:13 am Republican Party, RNC Chair  

December 4, 2008

What’s an RNC Chairman For?

I really think there’s some confusion about this question.  Terry Jeffrey writes in the Washington about the potential candidacy of Ken Blackwell and lays out some interesting arguments including that Blackwell was a good candidate because he was a Republican:

(3) Mr. Blackwell is a battle-tested, rock-solid Reagan Republican, sharing the conservative values of the party’s grass roots on both economic and social issues.

He has long been an advocate of both lower taxes and limited government.

In 1995, Blackwell served on the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform, chaired by Jack Kemp. The commission, with Mr. Blackwell’s support, recommended a flat tax. In 2000, he was national chairman for the presidential campaign of flat-tax champion Steve Forbes.

That’s important and it’s enough for me to say Ken Blackwell for Governor, or Ken Blackwell for Senator (in a year where he’s not running in the shadow of uber-corrupt slime Bob Taft)  but if the best we can come up with in arguing for Blackwell as Chairman is his support of the Flat Tax and national Chairman of the Flop-o-riffic Forbes ‘2000 effort (which when adjusted for inflation spent more money than Mitt Romney and won zero primaries before exiting after the third event of the 2000 campaign) then I think we’re very unclear on what we need. Blackwell is a fine conservative advocate, but that’s not what we need.

Michael Steele is a dynamic presence wherever he goes, deliver a great speech and makes a fine TV guest. If the GOP were willing to split the RNC Chairman position into the General Chairman (face of the party) and National Chairman (who runs day to day operations), Steele would be a good choice. Barring the RNC making that decision, we’re not looking for a guy who’ll look good on political TV shows no one will watch other than people who have made up their minds.

And while I understand the reluctance of the RNC to consider members outside its own list of current members, we’re not electing a clubhouse president either.

This is about electing an architect who can build grassroots activism and fundraising networks in the Republican Party, raise money, and being responsive to a turned off party base. I remember being infuriated this Summer to get a letter asking me if I’d abandonned the Republican Party because I hadn’t sent money directly to the RNC. Given the way the GOP had ticked me off, the letter was torn into paper mache.

It’s also necessary for the next chairman the Party’s infrastructure into the 21st Century. Most of the candidates are talking about it, but with few exceptions, I’m not comfortable that anyone of them actually have a clue. 

The RNC Chairman will not turn around the GOP, just as Howard Dean didn’t turn around the Democrats. Dean built infrastructure, made connections, established outposts. It was then the Democratic Congressional and Senatorial Committees that delivered solid candidates like Jim Webb, allowing Democrats to retake Congress.

Bottom line: We’re not electing the next leader of the conservative movement, we’re electing someone who will build a network to sell the Republican product. If all Republicans can come up with is Manure on a Stick, the best sales team in the world can’t sell it. But if we’re going to produce something better, we need a solid party structure to even have a shot.

  12:35 am RNC Chair  

November 25, 2008

Fixing the Primary System, Part II: The Wyoming Plan

In my previous article, I’ve explored why the current awkward dance primary system is broken, and why the Rotating Regionals, the Delaware Plan, and the Ohio Plan do not sufficiently address the issues inherent in that system.

Now, please indulge me as I unveil my Wyoming Plan – a plan which, I believe, lays out a primary calendar for this party that not only meets all of our current needs but is able to grow and evolve to match the challenges of the future as well.

The Rotating Regionals plan was based on geographic borders. The Delaware Plan was based on total state population. The Ohio Plan was based first on maintaining current early state status, and then on state size, and then on an ideological/geographic balance.

The Wyoming Plan is based on total primary delegates.

To understand the plan, you have to understand the way the GOP decides how many delegates each state gets in the primaries. Basically, the national party lines out four categories in which to award delegates to states: district, at-large, state party, and bonus delegates.

District delegates
This one is simple, and it factors in the size of the state (and potential size of the Congressional delegation) by awarding each state three delegates for each congressional district. (For example, Wyoming, which has one Congressional district, gets three district delegates. Alabama, which has seven districts, gets 21 district delegates.)

At-Large delegates
Another simple one – this one factors in the potential size of the Senate delegation by giving each state five delegates per Senate seat regardless of which party occupies the seat. Thus, each state gets 10 at-large delegates.

State party delegates
Three party officials in each state are automatically delegates: the state party chairman, the national committee chairman, and the national party chairwoman. Thus, each state gets 3 state party delegates.

Bonus delegates
This is where the GOP delegate allocation system is genius. Each state gets bonus delegates based on a number of different criteria:

  • If the Governor of the state is Republican, the state gets 1 extra delegate
  • Each GOP Senator nets the state 1 extra delegate (max of 2, obviously)
  • If the US House delegation from the state is majority Republican, they net 1 extra delegate
  • For each chamber of the state legislature controlled by Republicans, the state banks an extra delegate (again, max of 2, obviously)
  • Finally, if the state cast its electoral votes for the GOP candidate in the last election, they get extra delegates based off of a mathematical formula which takes into account the total electoral votes cast (for a minimum of 7 extra delegates).

As you can see then, the number of delegates each state gets the chance to award during the primaries can shift from year-to-year based on what happens within that state and on a national level in Presidential elections. By tapping into and piggy-backing on that shift each election, we can devise a plan which can grow with the needs of the party in the future.

The basis of the plan is thus: arrange the states in order from smallest number of delegates to the largest number of delegates. Obviously, this order shifts slightly every four years because of the bonus delegates (and shifts ever more slightly every 10 years because of the census).

Once you have this list, remove the non-state entities like American Samoa and Guam from the list and then group the states in groups of five. Each of these groups will hold their primary on the same day, one week apart from one another, beginning the first Tuesday in March. Taking a week off for Easter, we end the process in the middle of May, just in time for summer vacations.

So that’s the basis of the plan: ten primaries with five states each, beginning with the states that have the lowest number of delegates. Why is this so beneficial? For so many reasons…

  • Five states at a time, especially beginning with smaller, more inexpensive states, is a way to test candidates’ abilities to play in multiple states at once without eliminating those candidates who lack huge fundraising numbers or name recognition.
  • Beginning with the states that have the fewest number of delegates first is a way to get Republicans enthused, interested, and active in states where they would otherwise be predisposed to not get involved. Some would argue that this system rewards states for not voting Republican, but to the contrary it would serve to excite and energize Republicans in those states so they are more likely to vote Republican in the next election.
  • If there were huge cultural or sea change shifts in state’s voting habits in the future, this system would automatically adjust along with them to ensure a balanced party (and thus a balanced candidate).
  • Starting with the states with the fewest delegates allows the process to play out for a longer period of time, thus giving more states a greater say in the process.
  • There is some built in ideological and geographic balancing when you arrange states in this manner — for example, the second week’s primaries would include Maine and Rhode Island along with North and South Dakota and Montana. Wyoming would go in the third primary along with Connecticut.
  • Since the delegates for each state are not settled until statewide elections, it would drive up the enthusiasm and coverage of state elections. Local politics would matter again in a big way, thus encouraging GOP control of state legislatures and governorships. More people would pay attention and vote in midterm elections, and that’s always a good thing.

So we have a process that allows the little guy to compete at the beginning, and if he or she can win support there can continue on into the later rounds; a process which energizes the state parties; a process that makes local politics relevant; a process which offers ideological and geographic balance and promises to create a more balanced candidate; a process which is pliable and flexible enough to change and remain relevant; and a process which gets more people in more states involved in choosing our nominee. What’s not to like?

Well, for one, Iowa and New Hampshire lose their first in the nation status. To some folks, this is inexcusable, and to others, they’d like to see IA and NH take their place at the back of the line. What I’d like to offer as part of the Wyoming Plan is a compromise: allow Iowa and New Hampshire special permanent spots in the first group of five. They still get to be in the group of the first primaries in the nation, but they do not have undue influence over the process.

And we haven’t done anything with the six non-state entities yet, either. The Wyoming Plan would place one of them every week alongside the five states already voting, during weeks 3-8 of the process. Why then? Because you don’t want a non-state primary to have a lot of influence at the very beginning of the process or at the very end (think Puerto Rico in 2008 for Hillary and Barack), and putting more than one at a time makes their influence to great as well.

The only other problem (and it could be major) is that South Carolina loses its “first in the south” designation – and if they complained long and loud about it, you could potentially promise them a spot in the second group of five… although the more spots you promise like this, the more states are going to want them.

So here’s what the calendar would theoretically look like, using delegate numbers from 2008 (and understanding that they will change for 2012):

  5:16 pm Primary & Caucus Dates, Republican Party, RNC Chair  

November 24, 2008

Text, Baby, Text

Michael Steele is out with his campaign website. That every campaign, even one that is essentially limited to less than 200 people in the U.S. and its territorities has a website is somewhat odd. However, Steele gives an interesting picture of what his chairmanship might look like:

Do you have a great new idea for the future of the Republican Party or just think their is room for improvement?  Now you can text your ideas directly to Michael Steele.  Text Steele to 66937 today!

To send a text simply follow these steps:
1 – Select messages on your cell phone
2 – Dial the Short Code 66937
3 – Enter Message “Steele” and send
4 – You will then receive a return message confirming your registration.  Just repy back – Y.
5 – You are now able to text your ideas to the Steele website.  To do that –
– Select Message and dial the short code 66937
– Start your message with @Steele (and then text in your thoughts)

I guess it’s a great opportunity to provide an idea to fundamentally transform the GOP in 150 characters or less. I don’t think any of us R42012 frontpage posters are going to make it. (Hat Tip: Hot Air.)

It does seem to be a consensus among most candidates in the race  that new media needs to be used more. However, I think we need more specifics, because while the text idea is interesting, it seems a little gimmicky.

  8:39 pm RNC Chair  

It’s Official: Dawson In

Over the weekend, SC GOP Chairman Katon Dawson made it official and declared his candidacy for the RNC Chair:

South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson, one of the highest-profile Republican state leaders, told the Associated Press Sunday he will seek the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.

Dawson joins Anuzis and Steele as the only three officially announced candidates, with others such as Saltsman most likely about to enter the fray. Also, Greer has announced he will throw his hat in the ring in the coming weeks if he doesn’t see a “visionary” and a “strong leader” in the group.

  9:12 am RNC Chair  

November 21, 2008

Thompson Drops Out of RNC Race

If he ever was officially in, he’s now officially out:

Former Sen. Fred Thompson is going back to starring on TV after his foray into Republican presidential politics over the last year…

He campaigned heavily for eventual nominee John McCain, and had recently tried to gain support to be in charge of the Republican National Committee. But his former finance chairman, B.C. “Scooter” Clippard, said Thompson told him Wednesday that he was returning to acting and dropping his RNC bid.

“He seriously considered it, but he called and said that it was not in the cards,” Clippard said.

  9:56 am RNC Chair  

November 20, 2008

Stephen Smith Throws Support Behind Chip Saltsman for RNC Chair

In the “Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows” category — or at least unanticipated bedfellows, Stephen Smith has thrown his support behind Chip Saltsman for RNC Chair (this is from my e-mail inbox this morning):

It’s been a while since we last talked, but I hope you’re doing well!

After finishing the election cycle with Senator Lamar Alexander, I’m now working with a longtime friend from my home state of Tennessee, Chip Saltsman.

As you may know, Chip served as chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party in 2000 and helped defeat Al Gore in his home state when few thought it possible. Chip then worked as a senior political advisor and fundraiser for Senator Bill Frist, first at the NRSC in the 2002 cycle when Republicans recaptured the Senate and then at Frist’s leadership PAC, VOLPAC, helping to elect Republican candidates in 2004 and 2006. Most recently, of course, Chip served as campaign manager for the presidential campaign of Governor Huckabee.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Chip is seriously considering a run for RNC chair, and I thought you might want to check out the following memo that Chip has begun sending to RNC members with his initial thoughts on rededicating the Republican Party, regaining the American voter’s trust, and setting the stage for a dramatic turnaround in 2010 and beyond:


Why is this unusual? Stephen was Romney’s Online Communication Director during the 2008 primary. Chip Saltsman was Huckabee’s campaign manager. The feud between the two camps is certainly not underreported or undemphasized. I guess blood (or, in this case, TN ties) really is thicker than water.

As I’ve said before, Chip Saltsman is an impressive long-shot candidate going up against party celebrities like Steele, Dawson, Anuzis, and the like. If Huckabee ruled out a 2012 run, I could easily get behind Saltsman for RNC Chair. For now though, my top pick is still Katon Dawson.

  5:05 pm RNC Chair  

Wildmon Endorses Dawson; Gingrich Un-Endorses Steele?

First, AFA chairman Don Wildmon has endorsed Katon Dawson for the RNC chair (H/T to Aron Goldman):

American Family Association founder Don E. Wildmon has endorsed South Carolina Republican Party head Katon Dawson’s RNC chairman’s bid.

In an e-mail sent to supporters today, Wildmon writes that “if the Republican Party is to survive, it must get back to its roots. I believe that Katon Dawson…has the ability to take the party where it needs to go.”

As a post script, Wildmon throws a little dirt at one of Dawson’s opponents. He passes along a transcript of Lt. Gov. Michael Steele equivocating about Roe v. Wade in 2006. “[F]or many in the pro-life movement, Steele’s comments could disqualify him from receiving their support.”

Wildmon endorsed Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. It’s notable that he’s not endorsing Huckabee’s preferred candidate, Chip Saltsman.

In other news, Newt Gingrich has refuted claims that he exclusively supports Michael Steele’s bid for the RNC chair:

Less than a week after Newt Gingrich counted himself out of the race for chairman of the Republican National Committee, the former House speaker was pulled back into the contest as one contender claimed Gingrich was backing his candidacy.

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who announced his bid for RNC chair on Fox News last week, told National Public Radio Tuesday that Gingrich was supporting his candidacy, despite earlier rumors that the former speaker might be mulling a bid of his own.

“Newt’s decided not to run for the job, and he’s, in fact, supporting me in my efforts,” Steele told NPR.

But a spokesman for Gingrich said the former speaker has not formally endorsed Steele.

“Steele is one of several people who are running of whom Newt is supportive,” Gingrich spokesman Joe DeSantis told Politico, adding that Gingrich had also said “good, positive things” about two of Steele’s rivals, South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson and Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis.

In an appearance on Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” last Wednesday, Gingrich called Dawson “very effective” and referred to Anuzis as a “good friend of mine.”

He was effusive, however, in his praise for Steele.

Here’s the original quote that started the whole episode:

ABC News’ Teddy Davis and Tahman Bradley report: Michael Steele told National Public Radio Tuesday that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is backing the former lieutenant governor of Maryland in his bid to be the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

“Newt’s decided not to run for the job, and he’s, in fact, supporting me in my efforts,” Steele told NPR.

I can see how that quote may have been taken out of context.

  1:09 pm Newt Gingrich, RNC Chair  

November 19, 2008

Chip Saltsman: RNC Needs a 50-State Strategy

You know, if he wasn’t an obvious stalking horse for a Huckabee 2012 campaign, I could see myself supporting Chip Saltsman in his longshot bid for RNC chair. Especially when he says things like this:

If there is one area Democrats out-worked Republicans over the past four years, it is expanding their voting bloc. Many scoffed at Howard Dean’s “Fifty State Strategy,” including other Democrats. But the fact remains that his party became more competitive in more places over the past two election cycles. In 2006, Democrats won House and Senate seats in traditional Republican territory. Two years later, Obama won nine states President Bush carried in 2004, and, in almost half of those states, Obama ran ahead of the national vote.

I have defended Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy here and elsewhere in the blogosphere against Republican and Democratic attacks. I thought it was brilliant, even when the Democrats were complaining about wasting money and Republicans were laughing because we loved to see the other guys waste their cash.

Well, two election cycles later, the Democrats have gained a total of 57 seats in the House and 14 seats in the Senate. It was obviously time, money, and effort well spent. They managed this by picking up seats in traditionally Republican areas; meanwhile, the GOP continues to write certain races off and not even field a challenger in many of them. Chip Saltsman is right – we would do well to emulate a 50-state strategy of our own.

  3:16 pm Republican Party, RNC Chair  

Michael Steele’s Pro-Life Cred Defended

David Brody has the story:

Michael Steele wants to become Republican National Committee Chairman. Yet some anonymous emails are circulating within Republican circles suggesting he’s not pro-life enough to be chairman. Colleen Parro of the Republican National Coalition for Life has publicly voiced concerns because Steele was a co-founder of the socially moderate Republican Leadership Committee.

A source close to the situation tells The Brody File the following:

Steele resigned from the RLC in July of 2008 because they had begun to get involved in Republican primaries. He asked that his name be removed from the website and all their materials, though it appears the group hasn’t complied with the request.

Joyce Lyons Terhes, an RNC National Committeewoman, from Steele’s home state of Maryland is sending the following letter around to RNC members: Part of it is below:

Dear fellow RNC member

I wanted to write personally because I’m angry … and because you should know the truth about Michael Steele.

Michael is a wonderful man who has given generously over 20 years of service to our party and to conservative causes – as a volunteer, county chairman, Maryland State Party Chairman, statewide elected official and now as Chairman of GOPAC.

But some of Michael’s opponents in the race for RNC Chairman have started an anonymous mudslinging campaign.

You’ve probably seen the emails. They claim Michael is not as pro-life as he needs to be. Well as someone who has known Michael for almost 20 years I can tell you these charges are absolutely false.

No wonder the people behind these emails won’t reveal their identities.

Here’s the truth.

Michael is the only current candidate for RNC chairman who has ever been endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee. I’ve attached the endorsement Michael received when he ran for Senate here in Maryland two years ago.

Oh, and by the way, it’s not easy running for public office in Maryland as a staunch pro-lifer. But that is exactly what Michael did. He never backed down. Never made excuses.

Brody makes the case that Steele’s membership in the RLC may actually be a plus:

Look, here’s the reality. Steele’s critics have a huge task ahead of them if they’re going to make the case that the guy is not pro-life enough. He’s got the solid track record on the life issue. It’s hard to argue against it.

If anything, the ties to the RLC could be seen as a plus in his corner. After all, the Republican Party will not win presidential contests if their candidate is seen as an ideologue. The challenges for the incoming chairman will be numerous including how to brand the GOP a certain way without sacrificing conservative principles.

Read all of Brody’s analysis here.

  12:02 pm Republican Party, RNC Chair  

November 18, 2008

Sorry, No Connection

There have been a couple of things I have wanted to post over the last few days, but I haven’t had any free time, and to be honest, I don’t have a lot of time to put into this post either, but I felt I needed to clear up some facts.

There is no connection between Fred Thompson’s RNC bid and Sarah Palin’s 2012 connection. Most of the articles that were linked to are old news, and it should come as no surprise that thenextright’s Jon Henke has been talking up the idea behind the scenes, since he worked on the Fred Thompson campaign last year (which incidentally, I took my marching orders directly from him, as he was the head of the comm outreach).

When I posted the information that Quin Hillyer received from inside the campaign last week, which stated that “Fred does not have a dog in the fight,” it was the same information that I had, except Hillyer’s information was coming straight from Thompson’s advisors… where of course mine came from somewhere down the foodchain a bit, kind of like the dog digging being fed scraps by the second shift trashman. However, it was the same story that we both got.

What so amusing about all these “Draft Steele,” Draft Newt,” or Draft Fred” efforts for the RNC chair is that it is actually pretty pointless, as is a lot of the debate over who the next RNC chair would be, since the public does not really have much of a say in deciding that particular position. It’s why I have been hesitant to enter into a debate over who would be the best candidate to fill the job. It’s not like choosing the party nominee.

If one were to dig deeper, it’s not that difficult to discover what is going on behind the scenes in this case. And in either case, it likely won’t be Steele.

  7:19 pm RNC Chair, Sarah Palin  

Are Thompson and Palin Working Together?

Ever start to put two and two together and…

I was updating my bookmarks and I was surprised to see Team Sarah was still actively advocating for Governor Palin.  No mention of 2012, but their efforts were obvious.  In recent weeks Team Sarah’s most vocal advocate and leader has been Jeri Thompson.  You can watch some of Jeri’s performances here.  As many of you are aware, Jeri is not just a political spouse, she is a political operative.  Jeri worked at the RNC.

Both Thompson (Fred) and Palin have been very silent on their future roles in the GOP, but I am beginning to notice a trend.  What appears to be a subtle movement(s), is actually a full-scale assault and I believe that Mrs. and Mr. Thompson and Mrs. Palin are actively working together to ascend to the leadership of the GOP.

This is of course is mostly a hunch, but we need to keep our eye on the connections and subtleties.


On Thompson, Matt Lewis from Politico (Townhall) has the story;

During his short-lived 2008 presidential run, Thompson often seemed a better advocate for others than for himself. After dropping out of the presidential race, he served as one of Sen. John McCain’s most eloquent, hard-hitting and effective surrogates. With his Hollywood ties, he’s also a pretty good fundraiser. As RNC chairman, he could continue in that role without the pressure to become president himself (which, frankly, didn’t seem to appeal to him).


There are already three “Draft Fred” sites on Facebook.  View them here, here and here and the conservative blog world seems to be slowly moving in the direction of Thompson, including his idea of a shared chairmanship.  Some have even hinted that John McCain is on board.  The Tennessean published an extremely interesting article on the subject, including what appears to be some behind the scenes conversations that show the ‘Fred for RNC’ movement may be a little further along then what the press and public have been informed of.

“I’m extremely excited that he’s considering it,” said Scooter Clippard, a Middle Tennessee businessman who spearheaded national fundraising for the Thompson and McCain campaigns. “It’s time for a change. Fred Thompson would be the absolute best person to articulate that message for the party.”

Thompson has not said anything about the RNC chairmanship publicly, but the prospect has his supporters intrigued. Even former Republican presidential nominee John McCain is in on the speculation.  “I was talking with John McCain today … Fred Thompson’s name came up, and we both talked about whether he would run for the chairmanship,” Clippard said.


This week has also produced the launch of what is probably going to be the largest “Draft a Pol” movement in American history.

Paul Streitz designed a great site for the 2012 Palin movement.  Paul has a ‘MASSIVE’ distribution list and networks of supporters and volunteers across the nation.  Politico has the details on the ‘Draft Palin for President’ movement.  Paul was a leading activist against the Bush immigration bill (frequently seen on Lou Dobbs) and Paul is the founder of www.americafirst2008.com.  This movement will soon have the resources and nationwide network similar to a national leadership campaign.

David L. Kelly, the group’s Treasurer and Colorado coordinator, sent a mass email today that hit at least one Iowa GOP vet.

“Since forming our committee last week, we now have State Organizers in ten states and thousands from across the nation who have signed on as supporters,” writes Kelly. “We feel that for Conservatives to be successful again, we must get back to the core principles of Conservatism. Sarah Palin’s popularity and her Conservative values that she embodies will be the catalyst that will resurrect the Conservative base and reform the Republican Party of the near future.”

  5:08 pm 2008 Misc., 2012 Misc., RNC Chair, Sarah Palin  

November 17, 2008

Michael Steele Reaches Out to GOP Bloggers

On a blogger’s conference call on Friday, Michael Steele made it clear that he will reach out to and work with right-leaning bloggers should he become RNC Chair:

“…Thanks for ‘blogging’ in… I think that the fact that I’m on the phone with you guys should give you some indication of where I want to take this party next. It has always amazed me that we have under-utilized an incredibly important resource and that is the men and women out here who blog, and who share information, collect information, and spread the word around. We have not, certainly at the national level, effectively utilized some of our strengths, effectively utilized certain strategies that will allow us to reach out with our message across this country. So, part of the parcel of what I want to do as chairman is to kick-start this in a different direction. Technology is my friend. I blog quite a bit. I’m usually on the net 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning which is crazy, but fun because I get a sense of what is going on around the world and tap into the thinking of a lot of our grassroots players out there and that includes you. So, it’s a real honor to welcome you all to this and let me just tell you this will be just the first of a series of conversations leading up to the election of the next chairman and one that process is done, many of you will be at the table in helping to shape an internet strategy, a communication strategy, that will be second to none.”

“When it comes to what you do as bloggers, now my understanding and appreciation of blogging is that this is something that Republicans really kind of started back in the Clinton era. There were a lot of guys and gals that started communicating amongst this thing so why did we let this enterprise drop? Why aren’t we actively engaging you to test ideas, to find out what’s going on in the streets, and sharing the information of what we’re doing on policy, on tactics, on all these things that get people excited and want to be a part of something…”

You can listen to the entire conference call here.

  3:57 pm Blogger Conference Calls, RNC Chair  

November 14, 2008

What Are the Benefits Of Fred/RNC?

I guess, as this site’s self-appointed reference to all things Fred, that I should make a few comments on the front page regarding his possible bid for the RNC chair. As I stated in late October, I was aware of a possible Thompson RNC bid, but wasn’t sure if it was just supporters talking it up or if he personally was interested.

I don’t want to turn this into a debate over whether Michael Steele or Fred Thompson would be a better choice to chair the RNC because I have openly stated that I would be happy to see Michael Steele at the RNC. However, I do support Thompson for the chair.

I must state up front that I think Steele is an articulate and fine man, and do not oppose him.

However, after once again reading through the comments, I do feel the need to make a couple of points about what Fred would bring to the table, when compared to Steele.

First of all, Steele, for all of his obvious talents, had little success as the head of GOPAC the last two years. There was not a lot of success under his leadership. As Quin Hilyer points out:

…GOPAC, which Steele has headed for the past two (?) years, has been a mere shadow of its former self while under Steele’s leadeship.(Trusting to somebody e;se’s math:) As of October 15, they had raised $77,135 this year, which combined with the $33,541 they had on hand at the beginning of the year, put them at $110,676 total.

The total disbursements for the year are $76,543. They currently have (as of October 15), $34,132 on hand.

In terms of candidates, it looks like GoPAC only gave $29,250 to candidates the entire year, $5000 of which went to Steele’s own campaign in Maryland.

By comparison, Fred Thompson’s PAC gave $41,900 to candidates and PACs in the first half of the month of October alone.

Another advantage of having Fred as the head of the RNC is that he is not interested in pushing his own personal ambitions, nor is he a stalking horse for another candidate. As opposed to other candidates, Thompson is in it to help the party, without a preconcieved bias that would be aimed at helping himself, or a candidate of his liking, in an effort to achieve higher ambitions. More from Hilyer:

“Fred isn’t looking to run for national office again. He is looking to rebuild the party and help elevate the movement and its principles . When conservatives run on conservative principles they win. We know that. He would be an honest broker because he is not seeking national office again; he doesn’t have a dog in this fight. Everybody else who seems to be running seems to have an eye on helping a presidential candidate.”
“Katon Dawson for Mark Sanford.”
“Jim Greer for Charlie Crist.”
“David Norcross and Saul Anuzis with an eye toward Romney.”

“These guys are stalking horses for others.”

The quote Hilyer refers to goes on to state that:

“Why are we essentially handing over the keys to the party to individuals who have an agenda for a particular person?
It’s important for the grassroots to have a voice in this. We needs honest brokers concerned about the party and the movement rather than a particular candidate. That’s how we will be best served.”

Hilyer also notes that Chuck Yob as co-chair is one, but not the only, person under consideration.

Michael Steele has a definite eye on his own future within the party, and the RNC position is one in which he likely views as a stepping stone to higher office. I can understand that line of thought. However, I’m not sure that, when it comes to a grassroots refocusing, that it is the best solution.

It should be noted that Thompson would serve as a General Chairman, which in contrast to recent years, was quite successful during the 1980’s, and worked well during Reagan’s era with Paul Laxalt as General Chairman:

The General Chairman usually provides overall direction and philosophical moorings, and acts as the public face of the party doing media and speeches, etc., and also is available probably for big-money phone calls and events — but the Chairman, with an Executive Director under him, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the RNC.

Like I said before, I have little desire to get into a heated debate over whether Michael Steele or a team with Fred Thompson at the head is a better choice. While some (at least here in the comments on this site) have brought up the argument that Thompson is lazy. I understand the hesitance some may have after watching Thompson’s campaign. One must remember though that Thompson, along with Romney and Giuliani, spent an enormous amount of time on the campaign trail fighting for the 2008 GOP races, and by all accounts, did an excellent job.

I will say that I do believe direction and re-igniting conservative ideas are an integral part to who should head up the RNC, and in this regard, there is little doubt over the principles that Fred Thompson would fight for.

As Kavon stated on November 5th, here at this site:

The reasons I would be ecstatic with FDT in this spot are that he is an effective and eloquent spokesperson for Conservatism, he possesses the native intelligence to succeed in a bottom-up/top-down reorganization of the Republican Party, and it would send a message to the grassroots that the GOP is returning to its “First Principles” as well as communicate that the upper echelon of the party has an optimistic view of our future.

With Michael Steele, one is not sure what to expect. There are many positives that he would bring to the table. One must consider, along with the fact that his time at GOPAC hasn’t been that successful, that Steele is still a relative unknown when it comes to his personal philosophy.

However, without going into a full debate over his own views, I feel that it is my job to point out the following because I am not sure that many are completely aware of where Michael Steele stands on issues that many on this site, and the grassroots in general, take very seriously. When taking a closer look at his overall philosophy, there is a conservative tilt, but one is not completely sure with what they are getting with him.

Michael Steele would make a fine spokesman as the RNC chair, and I think Fred Thompson would too. I am one of many voices out there begging for the infusion of new blood into the party. That does not mean, however, that there is not a place where someone like Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, Rudy, or whoever could not serve in a position of leadership and a voice for the GOP in a time where there is an obvious void in direction and leadership. This particular position is one where I would like to see a familiar, and trusted face.

What I really find to be exciting about this possible run is that he would be in a position to help other’s achieve their goals, as opposed to working behind the scenes to ensure his own political future. That’s exactly the type of position that I want to see the old guard in… helping the new blood rise to the top.

Update: MattC points out what I only alluded to, in the cited links above, in his post much more clearly.

  12:03 pm Republican Party, RNC Chair  

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