RNC Chair Race: Fighting for the Future of the Republican Party

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.

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Role for Romney

I hope Romney can have a role, even though I didn't particularly support him much.


1.  Has re-energized struggling companies in the private sector.

2.  Knows how to win voters in blue states.

3.  A great CEO manager

4. Seemed to hit the right notes when talking about conservative doctrine in the Primaries.


...also my pick,  Henke.  Thompson could effectively remove the massive wedge that Pres. Bush, K. Rove, Mehlman, Martinez and others in the  GOP Hierarchy inserted/hammered in between the Base and the RNC.  That wedge primarily being the border/illegal immigration issue.  Fred was exactly aligned with the Base on that particular issue.  And others issues, too.  But no other issue drove former GOP voters away on election day more than that issue.  No other issue was so divisive.  The sooner we accept that fact the better.  And a choice for FDT and RNC "head honcho"  go a long way to heal the party.

"BUT"  expect the seditious U.S. Chamber to battle hard and throw a lot of money into preventing   FDT from being RNC Chair. 

Henke, how do we influence these "200"  Committee Members that you speak of?  How can we "Fred Heads"  put pressure on them?  Darvin Dowdy

Immigration drove people away on election day?

If immigration was such an issue with the base, why exactly wasn't Tom Tancredo our presidential candidate?

And if that was what kept the base from voting, who lost last week because of their support for immigration reform?

The base needs to get over the ridiculous idea that screaming over tightening the border and having stricter enforcement of immigration laws would:

  1. Work
  2. Not alienate Hispanic and Asian voters that might otherwise like the GOP

If you want to fix the problem get rid of the incentives driving illegal immigration. Ease the immigration process to make it less plagued by bureaucratic inefficiency and prohibitively high costs. We need to change the discussion from one of stopping people from breaking the law to one of stop government from encouraging people to break the law by having poorly made laws.


Remain in denial, Waterman...

...if you like.  Bush got apprx 62 million votes in '04.  Then, no sooner than he got sworn in but he starts branding the Minutemen as vigilantes,  sends AG Gonzales on a special mission to Mexico.  At every opportunity he he describes the hordes of illegals as, "they're all just good people here trying to feed their families.  Does that include MS13?  Bush continued to poke his finger in the eye of the Base over this issue at every opportunity.  Jailing our valiant Border Patrol Officers Ramos and Compean.  And what do you think happened?  Well on 11/7/06 the voters tried to send him and the GOP a message.  The GOP didn't get the message.  On 11/4/08 McCain got apprx 55 million.  So what happened to that 7 million or so?  I say most Stayed at Home. Dropped out of the process.  Or they protest voted for some 3rd party candidate, etc.  A large segment of that 7 mil [if not all] took their vote elsewhere  specifically over this issue.

Fred Thompson was the candidate that came out strong on the illegal immigration/border issue.  I have my own ideas as to why his campaign failed.  I happen to believe that the GOP Hierarchy, at the prodding of the U.S. Chamber tossed a monkey wrench into the intricate mechanism of Freds campaign.  That monkey wrench was named Rich Galen.  Galen put Fred on a bus and kept him obscure & out of the spotlight on the back roads of Iowa,  NH and SC.  Pure sabotage - my opinion.  Fred should have run his own campaign.  I blame him for allowing it to happen. 

I don't blame you for being skeptical.  It does seem like some nutty conspiracy theory.   But if Fred gets the RNC chair, watch enthusiasm and donations increase dramatically.  DD


I'd like to see Newt, or someone of his ilk fill the RNC role.  I understand Newt's a polarizing figure, but his negatives have to have fallen since his exit from elected office in 1999.  My reasons for suggesting him are quite simple - he's a true conservative and wickedly brilliant. 

Newt was our field general in 1994 when we had the same situation, and his ideals have no less effect today as they did back then.  As I've said repeatedly, conservatism did not lose on election day - our abandonment of those principles over the last 8 years did us in.  It's time for us to return to those clear principles of low taxes, (significantly) reduced spending, fiscal responsibility, a strong and competently led defense, equality and a well-grounded judiciary.  These are Newt's core beliefs, and unlike our last nominee, he not only believes them, he can also convey them to the American people.

Smart Guy factor

"true conservative and wickedly brilliant."

Good point. Since the libs are using the sub-standard IQ attack on our side (Bush, Palin), it does NOT hurt to highlight smart guys who are articulate and nimble.

That's why I think Newt Gingrich and guys like Bobby Jindhal should be in the mix.


Fred's the man!

Fred's the man!

With all due respect, not FDT

First, I honestly do not get the appeal of Fred Thompson, so take that for what it is worth.

My understanding is that the primary responsibility of the General Chairman would be to deliver energy, excitement and outreach to wavering GOP voters and persuadable independents. He or she will be the public face of the GOP in the next four critical years and therefore very closely associated with any efforts to rebrand and revive the party in the near-term. In that context, I have two primary concerns with Thompson's appropriateness for the role.

1) Energy

I accept that he is a principled conservative, but I do not think he is driven to rebuild the party. My fear is he would be a caretaker and that is exactly what we do not need now. His lack of passion and energy during his primary campaign was a major disappointment to his supporters. What makes us think this would not be a problem in this role? We need someone driven to renew the party and who will stir things up. FDT is not that person.

2) Generation

Fred is a man of the generation of John McCain. Choosing him to lead us will strongly suggest the party is backward looking. Despite his oratorical gifts, which are at least partly due to his elder statesman qualities, he will not be able to overcome the image of being a messenger from yesterday. His efforts to reach out to new constituencies and getting people excited about the GOP will be deeply hindered by that.

Let me reiterate that these comments are offered with all due respect to a man whose supporters hold him in great affection.  

With his performance in the

With his performance in the 2008 primaries in mind, I understand your concerns about Fred Thompson.

However, I disagree with your assessment that he will not be able to energize the party militants. I think that the Fredheads (and Huck's Army) were in fact of the most passionate and energized party militants in the GOP this last election. He is extremely popular with a minority in the party, and I have no doubt, that (given some honest media coverage instead of the constant "he's lazy and he was in die hard 2" which turned out to become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy) his obvious leadership qualities, coupled with his oratorical skill, common sense appeal and, most importantly, his adherence to conservative (neolibertarian?) values, makes him the man to not only unite the party in these times of troubles, but to pull disappointed Obamabots towards the GOP. I can't help but see a bit of Reagan in Thompson, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

And yes, Fred is a man of McCain's generation, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Much will depend on how the Obama administration will fare, and whether they will be able to blame the inevitable problems it will face on the Republicans or not. Given enough disappointment in Obama's hopey-changitude in the next few years, it may backfire if we are perceived to be emulating Obama's formula to success..

Oh well, just my 2 cents. I don't even live in the US (yet) so it doesn't really matter that much anyway :)

Also, what's George Allen doing these days?

RNC Chair Should be Fred and Newt.

RNC Chair Should be Fred and Newt.

Michael Steele

Haven't we learned anything from Fred's failed Presidential run? He's not the guy. What about michael steele? He has a great vision for the party and can really take us into the future instead of the past. Check out this site www.draftmichaelsteele.com


The job needs a workaholic

Fred Thompson is not a workaholic.

Newt Gingrich for RNC Chair

I gave the reasons why here and there are many and they run deep...



Thompson's hapless presidential run is not a good indicator of a man who can organize an RNC revival. If's he's a good spokesman, and he is, then let him do that freelance, to fundraise, give speeches, and show his face on the talkinghead shows.  But we need more than a good speaker to be RNC Chair.

Newt has the goods IMHO.


No Newt

Newt is the most self-advertising person out there. Besides, we need to look to the future, not the past. Everyone thinks that Newt was this great speaker. He wasn't! He got ousted for a reason. He was not a good manager and was a horrible spokesman. Remember the government shut down?

I disagree

Howard Dean was prone to gaffes, but he had a clear vision of what needed to be done with the Democratic party and a desire to get the job done. That's what made him a great DNC chairman, which is not a position that requires a lot of public speaking.

Newt has the vision. Does he had the desire?

Newt gets the future

Besides, we need to look to the future, not the past.

I take it you haven't read "Winning the Future", havent looked at his "REAL CHANGE" effort and the "American Solutions" platform, and havent noticved that Newt Gingrich and the "Drill Here, Drill Now" was the one successful GOP effort this year to win on an issue over the Democrats. This is all in the past 4 years. The guy is not even in any elected office and he managed to do more than our President to advance a conservative agenda this year!!!

Newt gets the future, he's been embracing it far better and far more effectively than any other Republican out there.

Remember the government shut down?"

While Clinton was using it for his own political advantage, we cut the budget deficit $100 billion in a single year, and Newt's Congress delivered on its promises and was re-elected. I also notice that the GOP Congress lost its way after Newt and Armey left.

I don't know of too many GOP leaders in the past 20 years who did better than Newt but I can reel off MANY who did worse.

I think he would be great in that role.

I don't like him personally, but hell I would say that about most currrent and former politicians, but he is sure is a proven leader.  He worked great with Haley Barbour, who I think was the best RNC chairman in years (and is doing a hell of a job as Mississippi governor) and I think he could follow in that mold.  Were he to be chosen, the left would most certainly be back to bringing the "Nasty Newt" caricature, but is he any more controversial than How-wierd Dean (YEAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGHHH!)?

but we lost

on that issue on lost on the election. Now a days it's about winning and communicating effectively what you did.

Jon Henke, pls answer my question...

...How do we contact these "200 Committee Members"? Directly.  Phone/Email/Fax, etc.    How do we influence their decision?    Is it possible for some sort of "grass roots"  or "rightroots" movement to put pressure on these individuals?   What would be the best method?  Maybe you could do a little follow-up piece to answer this.  Greatly appreciate it.  DD

New RNC leadership..............

"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."

Not only do we need to re-establish the conservative GOP brand, we need to reach out to millions of people who are receptive to this ideology and have yet been almost completely ignored by the republican party.  Mr Steele would surely help with that.  As for Mr. Saltsman, his record of tactical accomplishment speaks for itself from his role in denying Tenn. to Gore in 2000 to his impressive management of Gov. Huckabee's campaign.

General Chairman - Michael Steele

Chairman - Chip Saltsman

No Newt No Saul - Yes to Romney or Thompson

 I agree with most of Newt Gingrich's political views, and I thought that his Contract with America was brilliant.  However, I do not believe that Newt has the right stuff right now to lead the GOP back to a majority party.  Too much baggage and too many enemies to be successful long-term.

I would be thrilled to see Mitt Romney take the job.  As a successful CEO, governor, entrepreneur and rescuer of the Salt Lake Olympic Games, he is perfect for the head of the GOP.  The real question is... ...would he actually take on such a thankless task?

As a second choice, Fred Thompson would be a good candidate as national GOP leader.  His high visibility and name recognition would be helpful in the early days, and would get him more face time on the Obamamedia.

Whatever we do, do not select Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis to the national job.  The MI-GOP was barely present during the 2008 elections, with the result that we lost races we should've won.  Rightly or wrongly, Saul is responsible for implementing the party's failed election strategy and should not be rewarded for it.

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