So, I confess, I KIND OF watched the RNC chairman's debate yesterday (I'm replaying it as we speak which is what inspired me to write this). I will say that when I was poking around the net today, I found an AWESOME critique by Bryan Preston over at Pajamas Media which I'm urging all of you to read. The inclusion of SBA as a sponsor seems to have focused the debate more on social issues and as Preston points out, that has little bearing on the RNC Chairman's ability to do his job. With that said, the idea is to find the MOST conservative candidate who can win and among Republicans, (as we saw here in Delaware) you're able to find strong conservatives and elect them.
Wagner has conservative credentials. She's done great things in Missouri and she has plenty of political experience. Most of the candidates talk about raising money, Saul and Ann really come forward with some specifics which is good. Ann's plans don't quite sound as well thought out but she makes a good case. Ann Wagner points out that the PEOPLE are the ones who decide who wins the primaries and that the RNC needs to focus on recruiting candidates, fund party, victory and GOTV efforts across the country. Supports legislative efforts to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Cited a lack of focus on the real issue of debt as a failure and also said that the people would decide if we are on the right track or wrong track. Danced around the question a bit. Cites many of the TEA Party values as absolutely critical for people to be considered a Republican. Three Pillars: Fiscal Conservatism, National Defense, Social Values - a Chairman should espouse all of these values. Brings grassroots groups to the table to build coalitions in Missourah (sorry Ann! it's there) especially pro-life groups.
Saul REALLY gets it. He understands that funding is priority, followed closely by management skills and he certainly has the message. He's backed by TEA Party groups across the country and is a breath of fresh air among a sea of also rans. Understands that the state parties need to drive the message and the GOTV efforts but that the RNC should support it with funds. Anuzis feels that the primary should be the determination and not the state party electors. Believes that marriage between a man and a woman is a cultural and religious belief that is worth fighting for. Saul breaks down the failures of the party. He explains that the Republican Party lost its way and shifted ever to the left becoming more like Democrats and he points out that when the Republicans act like Republicans they win, when they act like Democrats they lose. Understands that this is a "2nd chance" not a mandate and that if the Republican Party doesn't move back to its conservative base and principles, the voters will throw them out again. If they are with us 80% of the time, they are a Republican. The chairman should support the platform at least 80% of the time. Worked WITH the grassroots groups in every way that they could and is ready to run toward issues and not away with them. Understands the balance of ALL issues (including social issues) in the party platform. Ready to build coalitions across the party platform.
Maria Cino (no website)
She's a lobbyist, which turns me off already. She sounds like she feel entitled and her talk about retiring debt is interesting but I'd ask, if she's so good, how come the RNC is $20 million in debt? She talks about beating Obama but she supports Obamacare. Given a question about races like Delaware, where Christine beat Castle, she dodged the question. She talked about how the RNC should support the candidates that the state parties and the voters choose...thanks captain obvious. My question and the one asked is, did you see the victory by Christine as a triumph of principle or a disaster? Believes in the party platform. Cites McCain-Feingold as a mistake and then losing our way on spending. Cutting spending and cutting deficits wins elections. Agrees with Ann Wagner on the party platform. Wants to continue building coalitions and calls for a state victory plan due in April (while Delaware is bracing for a new state chairman!)
I think he's got balls even running in the first place. He's got his talking points going, he has a few one liner zingers but he's got a record and like he says, it speaks for itself. He takes credit for the RNC sweep this year but it's disingenuous. Make no mistake Steele, you won because the TEA Party allowed you to win. Many forget that Steele was no TEA Party friend early on and here in Delaware he only barely made it a priority to meet with the candidate who had the most attention this year (O'Donnell). He clearly DOESN'T understand what's going on. To take credit for the grassroots movement is...well it's simply disrespectful and ignorant of reality. Steele makes a good point about the RNC not getting involved in state party business but I think he misses the fact that some state (like Delaware) have structures that are not conducive to building unity. The RNC would do well to counsel states like Delaware on how to improve their process to promote unity. Steele understands that marriage is between a man and a woman as a matter of tradition. In his view, the definition of "family" may change but the party will support the ideal of marriage as traditionally defined. Believes that the GOP walked away from the Contract with America and that Democrat lite does not sell well in the public. Also says that the party stopped reaching out to people. Cites outreach as necessary to growing the party, reaching out to minority categories. Supports moderation as a leader and does not want to create a litmus test to determine eligibility to be a Republican. In favor of building more coalitions but worked AGAINST the TEA Party groups early on.
He makes a case for himself and his working with conservatives in Wisconsin. Reince could be effective in teaching state party leaderships how to work with the TEA Party. Stresses unity and cooperation which he does in a way that keeps himself above the fray and he shows the RNC as a broker of power between state parties, TEA Party groups and conservative single issue groups. Reince thinks everything has to mean something and he thinks the chairman should be a conservative Republican. Reince supports the way Delaware currently operates but what he misses is that in his home state of Wisconsin, he worked WITH the TEA Party and grassroots groups to come up with palpable candidates before the primary. In Delaware the state party ignored the movement and subsequently came up lame in their nomination. Also believes marriage is between a man and woman and that no one should lose their dignity. Does not believe the courts can rewrite the Constitution and define marriage. He believes the biggest failure of the party in the last decade has been not sticking to principles and he cited having to hold "our noses and voting for Republicans that didn't uphold the basic principles of our platform." Believes that the RNC chair out to take a chance and go out and support the conservative platform every chance they get. Thinks we need a chairman that will go out there and be PROUD to be a Republican. Cites pro-abortion, pro-stimulus, pro-bailout people as people who "might not be a Republican". Has a track record of working WITH grassroots groups and building solid coalitions.
Look, the chairman has a job to do. That job is tough! Bryan over at Pajamas Media points out the nuts and bolts of the gig but it's more than that. RNC chairman has to tie the whole party together and expand the message. Every single one of these candidates makes a case and a point on some issues. I've laid out responses by the candidates throughout the first 40%-50% of the debate and you can watch the rest on your own. I'm going to tell you, while Bryan sees things differently than I, I think we end up with the same two front runners.
Reince Priebus comes across VERY smart and VERY congennial. The only problem is he sometimes doesn't sound very honest. That doesn't mean he isn't and I'm not questioning his integrity but he comes across a bit slick. He almost sounds like a used car salesman but maybe that's just his Wisconsin accent. Neither here nor there, I LIKE what he had to say. The problem for him is that he doesn't seem to live what he says. The law firm he works for is a huge supporter of Obamacare. For those of us who believe in TEA Party principles it is almost expected that someone who wants to be a leader of this movement stand for the principles in his or her personal life as well as publicly. Many would expect Reince to leave that firm and move to another. Fair or unfair I think it is a valid question for Reince to answer. Why not leave the firm? Are there no other firms? Is the partnership at that firm more important than standing on principles? and for those of us looking at this, if his answer is that his family well being and money was more important, does that disqualify him? For me, I think it's a difficult road. I worked for JP Morgan Chase during the time when they received bailouts and I made the decision that a job outside of the bailout process, with no input into that tactic was important and the alternative (unemployment) was not acceptable. Until I see where Reince was involved directly in this effort, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Priebus was also a little flustered, did not look confident behind the mic at all times and simply doesn't inspire confidence in his look and speech. His words make sense but the way he presents them sometimes betrays him.
Saul Anuzis simply gets it. He, like Reince, has built a red wall in his otherwise blue state. Anuzis understands that we have to get back to being Republicans at heart and that there is room for disagreement but that the chairman should be a strong conservative. He understands the correct order of things. He knows that fundraising will drive the message and GOTV and that the states should be responsible for moving those things forward with RNC monetary support. He also knows that it is important that the PEOPLE, through the primary system make the decisions and not party leaders. He sees a real need for the party to present a united front and to reform their own state primaries to ensure that the people and the party don't butt heads (like we did here in Delaware). He's a strong conservative and he understands that the RNC should be a strong support mechanism for the state parties. He does not have any of the Obamacare baggage that Reince does and he knows how to use social networking and technology to make fundraising easier and more effective and to drive the message. Saul looked comfortable and sounded confident which made his ideas all the more palpable. Hes also honestly believes in his principles and with an absence of anything in the past to the contrary, I think he's the real deal. Apparently Tom Ross agrees with me about him.
About The Rest - we can't afford to let these people walk away if they don't win. Every single one of them needs a seat at the party table. None of them can really be "counted out", as backroom deals often make their way into politics (shocking right?) but I find them to be the long shots.
Ann Wagner - She's a great conservative thinker with political experience. She'd be a great boon to the party as someone who can support, groom and engage candidates for national offices. I hope she takes a role with the RNC that allows her to put forth this talent, perhaps as a "scout" or trainer for candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, President, etc. She's not likely to be our next RNC chairwoman but of the rest, she is the best.
Michael Steele - Steele is fighting an uphill battle that is only partially his own fault. The GOP had already been in decline when he took over and he is right, when he took office it was hard to find anyone who wanted to be a Republican (and some "Republicans" like Castle yearned to be Dems) much less give money to a GOP with no identity. Steele fought the TEA Party/conservative movement early on and you can sense some of that in his answers. Steele would just as soon make the GOP Democrat Lite (despite his suggestion to the contrary) if it meant a bunch of R's elected. Well that's what got us where we were in 2008. Finally, Steele takes credit for the GOP wave election in 2010. Well, he deserves credit for getting the hell out of the way and keeping his mouth shut but make no mistake, Steele did NOTHING to help the wave. This was the TEA Party election Mr. Steele. It was the grassroots movement flexing its muscle and carrying you across the finish line. I wonder how you even went into $20 million of debt by doing nothing. Perhaps if you spent less time filing FEC complaints against good conservative candidates, you wouldn't be in debt. Steele isn't likely to win. I'd put his chances at 30% but don't count him out completely. With all of this said, I think Steele is KEY to GOP outreach efforts especially to minority groups and his help MUST be retained to work on the message that is presented to minority groups.
Maria Cino - Ok, so I didn't like her from the word go because the first thing I saw was "lobbyist" and the second was "Pfizer" and the third was "supported Obamacare". She is not my choice for RNC chair but she made some compelling points and a look over her she cited McCain-Feingold as a mistake, along with losing our way with spending. Not exactly rocket science but good points. Look, Maria has done a great job in the past with the GOTV efforts and I think she would make a great GOTV/Coalitions Director. That said, she really hasn't got a shot at being Chairwoman despite the support of Delaware's Priscilla Rakestraw (the longest serving National Committeewoman and one of the more disliked Delaware Republicans).
Let me know what you think.