- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2005

Republicans intend to establish year-round drives to register new voters, especially in closely contested states, and to identify Republican-inclined voters who can be targeted for turnout efforts in elections.

“We want to continue to find additional Republicans and conservatives as well as black and Hispanic voters and improve on the technology to do that,” Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said yesterday in an interview with The Washington Times, his first with a news organization since he was elected as national party chairman earlier this month.

“The object is not to rest on our laurels but do better in elections this year and next,” said Mr. Mehlman, who was national campaign manager for President Bush’s re-election effort last year.

Mr. Mehlman, 38, was the choice of Mr. Bush and White House strategist Karl Rove to lead the Republican National Committee for the next two years.

Known as a party loyalist, Mr. Mehlman joked yesterday that the only way he will make news is by “staying on message.”

He said he was able to pick pro-choice Ohio Republican JoAnn Davidson as RNC co-chairman because pro-life exponents in the party know and trust him as a conservative.

“They know I won’t sell them out,” he said.

He said Mrs. Davidson, who has pledged to adhere to Mr. Bush’s pro-life policies as co-chairman, had done a “fantastic job” in helping win Ohio for Mr. Bush.

Mr. Mehlman was named “campaign manager of the year” at the weekend meeting in Washington of the American Association of Political Consultants, which four years ago similarly honored Mr. Rove for masterminding President Bush’s 2000 campaign.

Mr. Mehlman made his national mark as the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign manager in an election in which even Democrats say the president outdid his own performance from four years ago, beating Sen. John Kerry’s campaign in organizing volunteer workers and getting voters to the polls.

Democrats acknowledge that the Bush campaign under Mr. Mehlman’s tactical direction last year also did better than the Kerry campaign and Democrat-allied interest groups in motivating voters in just about every demographic.

Interviewed in his fourth-floor offices at national party headquarters on Capitol Hill, Mr. Mehlman said he does not want the party to “rest on our laurels,” even though the nationwide grass-roots operation that Mr. Mehlman oversaw had succeeded in making the GOP’s share of the electorate equal to that of Democrats “for the first time since exit polling began.”

Mr. Mehlman said he is particularly proud that “conservatives increased their proportion of the electorate by almost 20 percent” last year.

His first task as national chairman is establishing four separate committees within the RNC to study ways to further improve the party’s techniques and technology for identifying, registering and turning out voters in time for the 2006 midterm elections. He said the findings and recommendations will be reported at the Republican state chairmen’s meeting in May and more fully at the RNC annual summer meeting in July.

In accepting the national chairmanship, Mr. Mehlman claimed a Republican mandate as a result of the November elections that kept Mr. Bush in office as the first president since 1936 to be re-elected while his party expanded majorities in the House and Senate.

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