Tags: RNC Chair

Monday’s Servings . . .


Daddy duties will mean light posting today, but there’s plenty to read if you haven’t already:

  • A look at the enormous challenges facing new RNC chair, Reince Priebus.
  • An interview with Herman Cain, former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, a former Senate candidate in Georgia, and a columnist who has formed a presidential exploratory committee.
  • And over on the home page, edition two of “The Balcony,” featuring Rich, Ramesh, Jonah, and Dan.

And a Monday edition of the Three Martini Lunch is slated for the near future . . .

Tags: Herman Cain , RNC Chair

Who’s the Next RNC Chairman? Not Gentry Collins.


Later today, I’ll be at the National Press Club, watching the candidates for RNC chairman in their second debate:

All of the declared candidates for the Chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC) have confirmed their participation in the Monday, Jan. 3 debate hosted by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and The Daily Caller. C-SPAN will be providing live coverage of the debate.

The 90-minute debate, moderated by Grover Norquist of ATR and Tucker Carlson of The Daily Caller, will begin at 1:00 p.m. in the Ballroom of the National Press Club. The event is co-sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List.

Members of the public are invited to visit the official debate website — — in order to submit and vote on questions they would like the candidates to answer.

This is the second debate of the aspiring RNC chairmen, and yet only half the candidates at the last debate will be on stage today. Former RNC chair Mike Duncan withdrew from the race in mid-December; and former RNC political director Gentry Collins withdrew yesterday, telling Politico that he couldn’t get support because RNC members preferred to have “one of their own” as the new chairman. (Ann Wagner and Saul Anuzis participated in the last one.) There was some talk about whether RNC members would vote for a chair who wasn’t “one of their own” last cycle; obviously, a majority was willing to pick non–RNC member Michael Steele over then-RNC-member Katon Dawson. Of course, since then, the members may feel once bitten, twice shy.

The remaining field includes two current RNC members (Wisconsin GOP chair Reince Priebus and Anuzis, who is one of the three from Michigan) and a former member (Wagner chaired Missouri’s state GOP until 2005).* Maria Cino, a former Bush administration official and organizer of the 2008 GOP convention, was RNC deputy chair in the 2004 cycle.

Politico’s canvass of members finds 88 of the 168 RNC members opposing Steele and 55 saying they won’t vote to reelect him under any circumstances.

* I had a bit of confusion as to whether Anuzis is an RNC member; he’s no longer Michigan party chair, but is still a committeeman from that state.

Tags: Michael Steele , RNC Chair

The RNC Chair Endorsements Continue to Dribble In...


Will RNC Chair endorsements slow down during the holiday week? Apparently not.

Politico reports this morning:

Former Missouri Republican Party Chair Ann Wagner will pick up a pair of key endorsements in her bid to lead the RNC today, from West Virginia RNC Committeeman Jim Reed and Committeewoman Donna Lou Gosney. Their support pushes Wagner’s endorsement total into the double digits – and perhaps more importantly, they give her the backing she needs in order to be nominated for the chairmanship. Currently, only Wagner and Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus have the public support to pass that test, which requires candidates to have two-thirds support from three different state delegations. (Wagner’s three are West Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee, while Priebus has Wisconsin, North Dakota and Mississippi.)

Meanwhile, up in New York:

New York State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox and all members of New York’s growing Republican Congressional delegation have announced their support for Maria Cino to be the next Chair of the Republican National Committee. 

“I am proud to support native New Yorker Maria Cino to be our next Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  The RNC faces massive debt, a brain drain, a Presidential campaign on the horizon and other serious challenges.  What we need now is experienced, committed and focused leadership.  Throughout her career in politics and government Maria has demonstrated clearly she has the skills necessary to ensure the RNC is an effective driver of our values and our candidates in time for 2012,” Cox said.


Tags: RNC Chair

How Much Should Grassroots Republicans Care About the Next RNC Chair?


There’s been a bit of hubbub about how much the postition of Republican National Committee chair, or the RNC itself, matters.

Liz Mair, an online strategist with Hynes Communications and former RNC online communications director, who’s done a terrific job keeping track of the ins and outs of the race, recently observed that “the only reason grassroots Republicans think the chair race is unimportant is because in previous presidential cycles, we’ve had a functional RNC.”

I’d note the Republican grassroots are not so engaged with this year’s RNC chair race because A) they don’t have a vote in the matter and B) with the exception of Steele, all of the candidates are making similar promises and using similar rhetoric — embrace the Tea Parties, fundraising is key, the chairman should stay out of policy fights, chairing the RNC should not be a stepping stone to higher office, no donor events in lesbian-bondage-themed clubs. (I guess that last one is just implicit.) By contrast, the 2009 RNC chair race, coming on the heels of the 2008 election debacle, was widely perceived as a key early decision on the party’s direction, at a time when Republicans were looking for new leaders.

If you’re a professional in the political arena, who runs the RNC matters a great deal.

In normal years, when the Republican National Committee is on solid financial footing, it steers millions of dollars to electing GOP officials and strengthening the party. This cycle the RNC will start $15 million in the hole from last cycle, so the organization will have to retire debt while building its war chest for the 2011 governors’ races in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky, the 2012 elections, and any special elections that arise in the interim. Either way, the next chairman will gain access to a national network of donors large and small, and the power and authority to direct millions of dollars.

Each incoming chairman has his preferred strategists, his preferred ad guys, his preferred professional fundraisers, event planners, direct-mail firms, Internet and web specialists, etc. If a chairman has worked with a particular firm for these services throughout his career, those firms will have the inside track for big-ticket work for the RNC. Candidates for chair will often pledge that they won’t direct money/contracts to their friends, but if a party chair thinks highly of a particular firm, it’s hard to believe that doesn’t help that firm get work.

Of course, chairmen have similar ability to steer money towards particular regions of the country. If an RNC chairman is convinced that winning the presidency means the Republican candidate must win in State X, then State X is going to get a lot of financial and other help from the national committee. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine any chairman shortchanging his own state.

For a vivid example of how a chair can turn attention to particular regions, look at the RNC’s approach to U.S. territories in this past cycle. The 168 members of the Republican National Committee represent the state chair, national committeeman, and national committeewoman for all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of those, only the District has any electoral votes and a member of Congress (and that representative cannot vote on final passage of legislation, just in committee). But in the contest for RNC chair, the support of three RNC members from American Samoa counts as much as say, the three RNC members from Florida.

“The islands” were key to Michael Steele’s win in 2009, and he has been attentive: He traveled to Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands less than two months before Election Day, and the RNC sent $15,000 to the Guam GOP in late September and $20,000 to the Republicans in the Northern Mariana Islands in 2009. Under Steele, several RNC staffers traveled to the territories during this cycle. Needless to say, some Republicans in other places think there were better places to spend that money.

So if your livelihood depends on contracts with a state Republican party, the selection of the next RNC chair is supremely important. (It is likely that almost every conversation between an RNC member and an aspiring chair includes some variation of the question, “What will you do for my state?”)

But if you asked members of the grassroots what they want to see out of the Republican party in the coming cycle, I suspect many would say they’re more concerned with ideology than geography. At the FreedomWorks candidate forum, a few questions from Tea Party-minded folks asked what the RNC could do about incumbents who ignore primary losses (like Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska) and several other queries had a general “how do we get rid of the squishes” tone. The candidates in attendance agreed that neither the RNC nor its chair should get involved in primary fights, although it’s worth noting the RNC wasn’t a big player in GOP primaries this cycle, either.

Either way, the Republican National Committee chairman is a strange place to expect enforcement of loyalty to conservative principles. The RNC’s job is to strengthen the party, primarily by electing Republicans. Outside groups whose mission is to prioritize conservative values over party label seem like a better avenue to channel those energies.

Perhaps the GOP grassroots should care more about the RNC chair; many smart Republican campaign veterans think the GOP cannot win the presidency in 2012 without an effective national committee. The problem is, this would require the grassroots to evaluate the declared candidates — Steele, Saul Anuzis, Reince Priebus, Maria Cino, Gentry Collins, Mike Duncan, Ann Wagner — not on ideology but on their ability to fundraise and coordinate with state parties, organize powerful get-out-the-vote operations, do opposition research, and perform a lot of other behind-the-scenes activities. And even if they do evaluate and determine a consensus favorite, will their state-party chairs and committeemen and women listen to them?

UPDATE: I finish this post just in time for Mike Duncan to announce he’s no longer running.

Tags: Michael Steele , RNC Chair

Eventually, Every Prediction About Michael Steele Turns Out Right


I’ll have much more on this as the day progresses, but for now, the Steele-y portion of this day’s Morning Jolt . . .

Make No Mistake: The Man Has Nerves of Steele

The good news about any prediction about Michael Steele is that it will probably end up being right, at least temporarily, at some point. Throughout his embattled term at the RNC through Election Day, Steele gave every indication he intended to run for another term as chairman. But as rival candidates emerged — including a few who once had close ties to Steele, like Saul Anuzis, Reince Preibus, and Gentry Collins — and Steele didn’t show for a candidate debate, it appeared Steele might be foregoing a reelection bid. The revelation that the committee was $15 million in debt certainly seemed to make the case for another two years at the helm that much tougher. And as of Monday afternoon, RNC members were hearing that he wasn’t going to run. But then . . .

Fox News sets the stage: “Controversial Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who last month presided over the GOP’s biggest electoral gains since 1938, announced Monday night that he is running for re-election. Ending weeks of rumors that he would not seek a second term, Steele publicly threw his hat into the ring during a conference call this evening with RNC members. ‘I ask for your support and your vote for a second term,’ he declared after going over his record and his vision for approximately fifty minutes — in what at least one RNC member considered Steele’s first re-election speech. According to a copy of his prepared remarks, Steele alluded to his controversial gaffes as chairman: ‘Yes, I have stumbled along the way, but have always accounted to you for such shortcomings. No excuses. No lies. No hidden agenda.’”

Sistah Toldjah is left incredulous: “It’s not merely ‘missteps’ but rather an insane appetite for insulting the very people from whom he wants to raise money (examples here, here, and here), not to mention his defeatist attitude towards Afghanistan, among other things. What a shame for someone once widely considered by many conservatives — including yours truly — as having the potential to go far within the party via advancing conservative ideals on a national stage.”

At Hot Air, Allahpundit thinks through the implications: “There are only two reasons to conceivably back Steele, as I see it. One: The GOP did, after all, win 63 seats on his watch, and he’s been lying low enough over the last few months that at least it looks like the gaffe-o-rama phase of his chairmanship is finally over. All of which is well and good, but in that case I urge you to follow the link up top and eyeball Cost’s graph again. The question isn’t whether the GOP did well this year, it’s whether it could have done better if the RNC had been flush with cash. Gentry Collins argued that poor fundraising might have cost Republicans an extra two dozen House seats, but given that he’s now challenging Steele for the chairman’s position, take that estimate for what it’s worth. Two: If you believe that, in an age of online donations and targeted giving to campaigns, the RNC will never again be relevant the way it once was, then maybe it’s better to keep Steele in place. It’ll avoid a nasty public squabble between pro-Steele factions, led by Palin, and anti-Steele factions like the ‘Bush establishment,’ and it’ll spare us the spectacle of Steele doing interviews to dump on the GOP after he loses. Plus, if Steele’s reelected, Republican outside groups are bound to start planning way ahead to pick up the slack in case the RNC can’t get its act together to fulfill its traditional fundraising and GOTV roles. No one cares about the RNC as an organization, only that its functions are being done and done well by some conservative outfit. If Steele’s reelected, it means that some other outfit or outfits will be pressured to step up. Inconvenient, but not fatal. I think.”

Tags: Michael Steele , RNC Chair

Susan B. Anthony List to Cosponsor Next RNC Chair Debate


Sounds like there will be some abortion questions at the next RNC chair debate:

Today, the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans for Tax Reform announced SBA List’s co-sponsorship of a debate among candidates for Republican National Committee Chairman to be held on Monday, January 3, 2011. The event will take place in the Ballroom of the National Press Club and stream live online at between 1:00pm and 2:30pm ET.

“It is critical that the next RNC chairman sincerely recognize the electoral power of the pro-life movement, can articulate its message, and is prepared to advance its priorities,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “We look forward to vetting the candidates on Life through thoughtful questioning and open discussion.”

“The actual vote for RNC Chairman will be made by the 168 members of the Committee, but the impact will be felt by all,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR. “Therefore, every activist should play a role in questioning the candidates and communicating with RNC members who cast votes . . . just like lobbying your Congressman and Senators. We encourage everyone to visit in the coming days to submit and vote on questions.”

Tags: RNC Chair

RNC Memo Touts What They Did Right This Cycle


Over at Politico, they received a memo from RNC chief of staff Michael Leavitt, attempting to defend the RNC’s record in the past cycle in light of the committee’s $15 million in debt and the familiar criticisms of Michael Steele’s management.

The memo is long on reciting GOP wins this cycle; the RNC’s share of the credit for those wins is pretty debatable. In terms of specific RNC accomplishments, the memo lists a few points:

The RNC played a critical role in driving record Republican turnout in 2010.

  • The RNC worked to establish and fund a record 360 Victory offices across the country with paid staff persons in the 2010 cycle, compared to just 154 Victory offices in 2008 and 140 in 2006. Moreover, the RNC established Victory offices earlier than in the past, further boosting GOTV efforts.
  • The RNC made over 45 million voter contacts in the 2010 cycle, far more than in previous elections, including presidential years as well as midterms. These contacts were critical: the number of voter contacts this year, as it had in the past, correlated very strongly with actual voter turnout.
  • Our ―Fire Pelosi! RNC bus tour conducted hundreds of rallies and countless media events in 48 states in the weeks leading up to the election, energizing voters across the country and generating earned media for candidates and the Republican message.

I’m hearing a few more murmurs wondering whether Steele will run for another term. The $15 million debt, along with all-too-memorable phrases like “lesbian bondage–themed club,” give his challengers a lot of easy targets.

Tags: Michael Steele , RNC Chair

The Would-Be Chairmen Debate


Over on the home page, the full report from the RNC chairman debate, held at the Washington Hilton and sponsored by FreedomWorks and the Conservative Steering Committee.

In today’s Jolt:

Meanwhile, the would-be chairmen got some bad news late in the day. The Post’s Chris Cillizza reports, “In a memo sent to vendors Tuesday, the Republican National Committee’s chief administrative officer acknowledged that the committee is facing a ‘cashflow challenge’ and that many of those who provided political services to it during the 2010 election would not be paid this week as originally planned. ‘We will not be able to pay off the vendors this week,’ wrote RNC Chief Administrative Officer Boyd Rutherford to Derek Flowers, a member of the RNC’s political team, in an email obtained by the Fix. ‘We will be slow in paying as we are having a cashflow challenge. Everyone will be slow paid until after the first of the year.’”

Picture that factoid thrown in the face of every Republican who mentions “fiscal responsibility” for the next two months.

And then Politico dropped the bomb of just how bad the circumstances are: “The committee will pick its next chairman in mid-January at the party’s Winter Meeting. The only thing that does seem certain about the RNC race is that Steele’s grip on the chairmanship is slipping as the party’s financial problems become more apparent. The RNC FEC report Thursday will show over $15 million in debt, [RNC Treasurer Randy] Pullen told POLITICO, and that doesn’t included some invoices that have yet to be paid.”

In no way, shape or form is the following observation meant to downplay or suggest you be anything less than riveted by my coverage of this upcoming race to select the next RNC chairman. But the surprise comeback attempt from Mike Duncan — who chaired the RNC from January 2007 to January 2009 — put into perspective how distant the connection is between the performance of the national committee chairman and the party as a whole in any given cycle. You can love Duncan or hate him, but most folks would concur he was at least a solid fundraiser and a decent manager. Yet Republicans endured an epically miserable cycle during his term. Enter Michael Steele, whose two years at the helm seemed hexed by one gaffe, bit of odd spending, controversy, and headache after another for the entire two years . . . and Republicans enjoy a massive comeback (with a few key disappointments). The performance of the RNC since January 2009 was trashed, six ways to Sunday, by all of the aspiring chairmen at yesterday’s debate. Almost every candidate made some variation of the argument of, ‘if Republicans want to win the White House in 2012 and keep the seats they won in 2010, they will need to have the RNC performing at its best.’ Yet they won 62 seats without the RNC performing at its best. In the end, the key election factors are macro, not micro.

There’s a flip side to this, too. The next RNC chairman could be a Serpentor-like genetic hybrid of Lee Atwater, Mike Deaver, F. Clifton White, and Machiavelli himself and the Republicans could still end up with a lousy cycle.

Tags: Michael Steele , RNC Chair

Mike Duncan, a Late Addition to the RNC Chair Debate


Mike Duncan, the RNC chair from January 2007 to January 2009, is apparently interested in getting his old job back, as he is now among the candidates at the FreedomWorks event today.

This appears to be a late development, as his nametag on the panel table is handwritten instead of printed.

UPDATE: A full report will be up later today, but in the interim, you can follow my quick observations on Twitter.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Gentry Collins estimated that the RNC needs to raise $400 million to $425 million for the 2012 cycle. Duncan points out that he has already demonstrated an ability to raise amounts on that scale.

Tags: Mike Duncan , RNC Chair

Another Election Takes Shape, This Time for RNC Chair


Over on the home page, a look at the rapidly developing race for RNC chair. Later today, I’ll be at a debate of some of the candidates, put on by FreedomWorks.

Tags: RNC Chair

No Carly Fiorina Bid for RNC Chair


A Republican in the right loop tells me that speculation regarding Carly Fiorina running for RNC chair is misplaced.

Tags: Carly Fiorina , RNC Chair

Ann Wagner, In the Mix for RNC Chairman


It’s a busy political morning in Missouri. Former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner, most recently chair of Roy Blunt’s winning U.S. Senate campaign, has announced her bid to be RNC Chairman:

The release: “Ann Wagner, former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, today announced in a video message to RNC committee members that she is running for Chairman of the RNC. Wagner, who has served the Republican Party at the local, state and national levels, also outlined a detailed agenda for the future of the RNC that she will be committed to if elected.”

Tags: Ann Wagner , RNC Chair

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