GOP hopefuls focus on reform

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

The six candidates vying to lead the GOP are focusing on how to reform their party, following a disheartening round of losses during the 2008 elections - though they all agree that traditional Republican tactics will not work anymore.

“I don’t think we had a message in 2008,” said Michael S. Steele, former Maryland lieutenant governor and one of the six candidates for Republican National Committee chairman. “Barack [Obama] did - as lightweight as it was - ‘Change.’”

Answers by Mr. Steele and other candidates to Republican National Committee member Morton Blackwell’s questionnaire, which were leaked Tuesday, show a race to define change, underscored by questions about why Republicans fared so poorly in the 2008 elections.

The candidates seized on Mr. Blackwell’s lead-off question about how the party could beat Democrats at the “ground game,” often with lengthy answers about reaching into “blue” districts, enlisting millions of online volunteers and engaging in old-fashioned, machine-style precinct organizing.

“In 2008, the GOP’s strategy of ‘winning 50 percent plus one’ and sticking strictly to the electoral math cost us dearly,” wrote South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, who is pushing a reorganization plan dubbed Project 3141, in reference to the nation’s 3,141 counties.

The current chairman, Robert M. Duncan, defended his leadership of the party during the last four years in many of his answers.

“While we can learn from our opponents, I firmly believe the media has created a myth that Republicans forgot how to run a ground game,” Mr. Duncan wrote in reponse to Mr. Blackwell’s question about how the RNC should develop an edge over Democrats in the campaign “ground game.”

Mr. Blackwell, an influential conservative leader from Virginia, is one of 168 RNC members who will choose the party chairman next month. Conservative activists have been watching for the answers to his lengthy questionnaire, which was distributed earlier this month.

Republicans also are awaiting a public debate among the six candidates, scheduled to be hosted by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s group early next month.

Mr. Dawson, Mr. Duncan and Mr. Steele are fighting for leadership rights, along with Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (no relation to Morton Blackwell), and John Saltsman, who ran former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign.

Throughout Morton Blackwell’s survey, the candidates broadly agreed to support all tenets of the Republican Party platform adopted at the party’s September convention in Minnesota. They also largely agree on sticking to social- and fiscal-conservative values and messages.

Morton Blackwell focused a handful of questions on party outreach to black and Hispanic voters, as well as Asian-American communities. In the questionnaire, he wrote that the wide black and Hispanic support for California’s referendum to ban gay marriage should be a clear inroad for the Republican Party.

Ken Blackwell pointed to Louisiana’s electoral success with Gov. Bobby Jindal, an Indian-American, and Ahn “Joe” Cao, the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress, in his answer.

“Louisiana Republicans have given us a model on which to build a broad, new Republican majority,” Ken Blackwell wrote.

Ken Blackwell or Mr. Steele, if successful, would become the first black man to chair the RNC.

About the Author
Tom LoBianco

Tom LoBianco

Tom LoBianco has covered energy and environmental policy, including the climate change bill making its way through Congress. From 2007 to 2008, he covered Maryland politics from the Times’s Annapolis bureau. Tom hold’s a master’s degree in political science from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park. He spent two and a ...

Latest Stories

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus