With Democrats winning large majorities in the House and Senate, it's difficult to see new Republican leadership emerging from Congress in the next couple years. House and Senate Republicans will be playing defense and managing the losses, with little opportunity to move the ball forward on any of the Right's agenda.
If the Right is to begin rebuilding, leadership will have to come from the outside. That is good.
We are at an inflection point for the Right; a moment in history when the Republican Party is undefined and listless, capable of being either renewed or captured. The opportunity to mobilize around new leadership is the opportunity to re-take the Republican Party from the entrenched, atrophied Republican establishment.
The next opportunity is the RNC Chairman race in January of 2009. It will be decided by fewer than 200 Committee members, but there is precent for the blogosphere to have a profound impact on leadership races. We could do it in the RNC Chair race, too.
There are a great many candidates (and more ever day, it seems; Marc Ambinder reports that Jim Nussle is in and Newt Gingrich is interested). However, the RNC Chair covers a wide variety of roles - from fundraising to operational management to communication; strategy and tactics - and it's not at all apparent that any of the candidates could possibly excel at every role. Some are interesting, but others seem like minor functionaries looking to be elevated to a bigger fiefdom.
That may be fine when the RNC Chair is just a support role to the Republican President or Congressional leadership. But the RNC Chair will be in a unique position of Party and movement leadership in years ahead. The Party will need both the tacticion and the strategist. And the most important role of the RNC Chair may well be that of visionary leader.
So, who actually embodies the Republican Party ideals best? I've previously suggested Fred Thompson would be an ideal fit as an RNC General Chairman - a communicator who gets the ideals, the policy and the message - while leaving the role of RNC Chair to the administrative manager.
It looks other people are thinking the same thing. According to DC Examiner...
Republicans desperate to rebuild their party are looking for a new leader, and former Sen. Fred Thompson may seek the job. Thompson, a Tennessee conservative and former actor, is mulling a run for chairman of the Republican National Committee.
The American Spectator's Quin Hilyer says "there is more detail to the story"...
First, note the distinction between "General Chairman" and "Chairman." The potential Thompson run envisions a two-tiered system like the one that worked under Reagan with Paul Laxalt as General Chairman (but that didn't work so well recently with Mel Martinez 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. Think Chairman of the Board vs. CEO, perhaps.
Quin also says Katon Dawson "knows how to get things done politically." In light of the contention that Dawson is close to SC Governor Mark Sanford, that seems like a potential pairing [Fred Thompson as General Chair; Katon Dawson as Chair] that could appeal strongly to the limited government/leave us alone vision for the Republican Party.
Hilyer's source says that Fred Thompson and his team are "looking at the lay of the land. If there is an indication of a wellspring of support, he will get in quickly."
If the grassroots Right wants to have an impact on the Republican Party, this is their chance to do it.