- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, armed with endorsements from major conservative groups, yesterday got the formal nod from President Bush to be the new Republican National Committee chairman.
"He has got a fine history of winning races and he'll translate that into practice come next fall, the 2002 races," Mr. Bush said yesterday at an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Racicot.
Initially, some conservatives were unhappy with the prospect of Mr. Racicot heading the national committee. As governor, he was a foe of school choice and opposed a Montana plan to bar compulsory union dues from being used for political purposes without explicit approval from each union member.
But Mr. Racicot's conservative record on other issues such as gun rights and opposition to abortion allowed conservative groups to coalesce around him for RNC chairman.
Mr. Racicot was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and the American Conservative Union (ACU), among other groups.
"George W. Bush has taken a strong pro-life stand, and the appointment of Governor Racicot to head the RNC is a continuation of that philosophy," Carol Tobias, the NRLC's political director, said in an interview.
"Racicot has the president's support, faith and confidence and that is essential for a party when it controls the White House," ACU Chairman David A. Keene said. "And Racicot proved himself a great spokesman for the party during the Florida presidential election recount."
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, the current national party chairman, and RNC co-chairman Ann Wagner were present at the Oval Office "unity" meeting designed to show a smooth transition of leadership going into the 2002 elections.
Mrs. Wagner described Mr. Racicot as "articulate and firm, yet civil."
Mr. Racicot said he will continue to do legal and lobbying work for the Washington law firm he joined after his gubernatorial term expired at the beginning of this year.
Because the RNC is made up of party chairmen and elected national committee members from all 50 states, the White House is relying on it to provide grass-roots support for Republican candidates in the 2002 midterm elections and for Mr. Bush's re-election bid in 2004.
The president had hoped that Mr. Gilmore would lead the Republican effort into next year's election. But Mr. Gilmore, at odds with White House chief political strategist Karl Rove over who would actually run the 165-member Republican National Committee, announced last Friday he would formally resign when the RNC has its annual winter meeting next month.
Even some Gilmore loyalists confided yesterday their surprise at how often the Virginia governor and some of his top advisers tangled in some cases "needlessly," as one aide put it with the White House and RNC Deputy Chairman Jack Oliver, a former fund-raiser for Mr. Bush's presidential campaign.
Mr. Bush said Mr. Racicot has "a history of success. He knows how to build grass-roots organizations."
"He's going to reach out to members of the labor unions and the minorities, just like Jim Gilmore did, to continue to take our positive, optimistic message to all neighborhoods around the country," the president added.

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