- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 16, 2001

In January, former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot will become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), following the sudden departure of Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
It's not surprising that the politics of personality and the politics of process may have had play in Mr. Gilmore's decision. After all, the party chairman's job is to put Republicans in office. Given that, Mr. Racicot's performance will probably depend to a large degree on his ability to meet the demands of the administration while fulfilling the desires of party members. Presumably, party purists and party pragmatists will also pull Mr. Racicot in different directions. In addition to those pressures, Mr. Racicot faces the certainty of being measured against the "Barbour Barometer," the performance of successful former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour.
To meet these challenges, Mr. Racicot has a number of assets, such as his personal relationship with the titular head of the Republican Party, President Bush; his long party loyalty; his experience as a governor; and his ability to communicate via television. The last is probably one of the most consequential since previous RNC chairmen have tended to deal with television cameras the way deer deal with oncoming headlights and usually with the same messy results. Mr. Racicot will face the added challenge of frequently going face to face with an already skilled television debater, Terry McAuliffe, the hyper-happy chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (And remember, the Dems shove Sen. Tom Daschle in front of a camera despite the fact that his rhetoric sounds boringly familiar.) Fortunately, Mr. Racicot seems to have some skill with television, if his performance during the 2000 Florida-recount fiasco is any gauge. Rarely blinking into the camera's unforgiving eye, he came across as an articulate spokesman.
As if his two terms as a governor of Montana were not enough, his service during the recount also cemented his credentials as a party loyalist. While criticism has been raised concerning his softness on some social issues (indeed, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights political organization, hailed his ascendency to the chairmanship), there is little doubt that he is a follower of the traditions of Lincoln.
Moreover, Mr. Racicot's close relationship with Mr. Bush is probably his most important asset. Mr. Racicot said earlier that he had an "unlimited amount of affection for the president," and that relationship will be critical in smoothing over the inevitable differences that will arise between Mr. Bush's residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW and the RNC's at 310 First St. SE. Still, in the end, Mr. Racicot will be judged by the same baseline as his predecessors his success in putting Republicans in office. We wish him luck.

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