RNC chairman's race: Oklahoma's Jones backs Blackwell

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For the first time since the Clinton administration, the 168 members of the Republican National Committee will be picking a new chairman without simply deferring to the wishes of the president. Traditionally, if there's a Republican in the White House, he makes the call, and the RNC members merely ratify the decision.

The RNC is composed of 3 members -- the state chairman, a national committeeman, and a national committeewoman -- from each state plus DC, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas, and Guam. (Yep, Guam and Texas have the same amount of pull on the reins of the GOP.) Oklahoma is represented by State Chairman Gary Jones, National Committeeman James Dunn, and National Committeewoman Carolyn McLarty. Dunn and McLarty are new to the RNC, succeeding long-time members Lynn Windel and Bunny Chambers.

Six candidates are seeking the job, including incumbent Mike Duncan. According to Politico, Jones has endorsed Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State. The other candidates are Chip Saltsman (Mike Huckabee's campaign manager and former Tennessee GOP chairman), former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, and two current state chairmen, Saul Anuzis from Michigan and Katon Dawson from South Carolina.

Morton Blackwell, a long-time national committeeman from Virginia and someone who has inspired and mobilized two generations of grassroots conservative activists through his Leadership Institute, put together a list of 37 characteristically thoughtful questions for the candidates and received thoughtful answers in reply.

In response to the first question, about how to overcome the Democrats' superior ground game, I like the fact that Anuzis and Ken Blackwell (no relation to Morton) both identified the problem behind the problem. Anuzis called it the "passion deficit":

The articulation of good ideas breeds passion; Passion breeds excitement; excitement breeds volunteers, and volunteers are the life's blood of a political ground game. So our first task is to be the party that is effectively communicating conservative ideas, so that we can once again stir the passions of our nation.

Ken Blackwell elaborates:

However, to have an exceptional ground game, our Party must first inspire thousands of people who can then be activated to work for our shared values during the election cycle. Lately, our party has become overly focused on mechanics while failing to articulate a clear, concise, positive and practical message. To inspire enough prospective Republican volunteers to be a part of a new "ground game," we must stand firm for our core beliefs: Limited government, traditional values and a strong national defense. If we become the "Obama-lite" party, we will not be able to recruit the substantial number of volunteers needed for such a massive effort.

As chairman of the Republican Party, I will lead by articulating a clear conservative vision that paints in bold strokes, not pale pastels. Doing so will rally a dispirited Republican base and present a vision that stands in stark contrast to the failed left-wing policies of the Obama Administration. This is the first and most important step we can take to rebuild the ground game of the Republican Party.

I have only skimmed the Q&A, but I noticed a series of insightful questions about the relationships between the RNC and the two congressional campaign committees (NRCC and NRSC) and between the RNC and political consultants.

On the strength of his responses to Morton Blackwell's questions, the Council on National Policy, which includes leaders of many conservative social and political organizations (as individuals, not as representatives of their organizations), endorsed Ken Blackwell.

A group of about 90 conservative RNC members, calling themselves the Conservative Steering Committee, will meet today (Tuesday) to consider the possibilities for RNC chair and to cast a straw vote. The real election takes place in about three weeks.

Notice something: 90 conservatives -- that's a bare majority of RNC membership. Notice too that the gathering of this conservative caucus has prompted discontent from other RNC members, who organized enough states to force a full meeting of the RNC the following day.

MORE: Hoosier Pundit explains why he thinks Blackwell is the best choice:

When the base gets mail from the national party and the campaign committees and is again willing to write checks, then you will know that the party is unified again and marching in the same direction. Right now, all I hear from people (going on two or three years now) is about how they won't give money to the national party and the campaign committees because they support liberal RINOs and don't do enough to stand up to the Democrats and (previously) to enact conservative policies.

The RNC chairman has to appeal to the base, be competent in terms of record, and not commit unforced errors in the current political environment.

Mike Duncan is just more of the same. It may be that he did "an alright job, considering the situation" but we need somebody that will do a great job regardless of the situation. None of the candidates inspire me in that way, at least yet.

That leaves Ken Blackwell. He's not tone-deaf, he's articulate, nobody it seems can question his conservative bona fides (the base can buy-in to him in ways that they can't or won't for Steele), he's Evangelical without being from the South (it's important for the chairman to not have a southern drawl, if only to demonstrate that the party is not regionalized), and criticism of Obama is going to be much easier if it comes from Blackwell (or Steele) than from some typical GOP white guy.

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David V Author Profile Page said:

My only exposure to the list of candidates consists of listening to Mr. Steele on Fox News Channel, And my work with the Huckabee campaign.

I'm very impressed with the skills and demeanor of Chip Saltsman.

Mr. Steele offers many abilities and his contacts are very established.

If the other candidates are as impressive as the 2 I've commented on, then we have some real opportunities for meaningful reform and a coherant message for the nation.

I hope our delegation makes a wise choice.

Pamela Author Profile Page said:

It appears that several of the candidates would be good. I am curious why people are against Michael Steele. I really do not know why people would be. I have no preference at this point. I am glad to see viable choices running for the position. There needs to be a change there obviously. There is hope for the party WITH A CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP. The recent leaders have been dreadful. Blackwell and Steele seem to be good choices from what I can tell. Saltsman seems to be good but I am not that familiar with him. Just get rid of the current leader.

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