Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reince Priebus Elected RNC Chairman

From 2000-2008, during the Bush Administration, RNC Chairs were chosen by White House operatives, as is customary, and the 168 members were expected to duly elect those candidates, which included Gov. Jim Gilmore, Gov. Marc Racicot, Ed Gillespie, Ken Mehlman, Senator Mel Martinez, and Mike Duncan. The RNC elected six chairmen in eight years, with the same administrators and consultants overseeing operations through the turnovers. When Michael Steele was elected in 2009, those operatives who had been, in effect, managing the RNC for a decade were no longer in charge.

Prior to the 2010 election, Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie (former RNC Chair), and Mike Duncan (former RNC Chair) each formed a 527 group designed to help elect Republicans with donations from major donors. Those donors were RNC donors with whom they had worked throughout the Bush years. Did this competition for GOP fundraising dollars hurt Michael Steele? With the RNC currently in a 20 million dollar hole, it would seem the answer is yes. Karl Rove was not happy about Steele's election. Michael Steele tried to run for RNC Chairman in January of '08, but he was stymied by the establishment. When Steele won in '09, he brought in his own consultants and allies. One of those was Reince Priebus.

The new RNC Chairman seems to be independent of the Rove/Gillespie/Duncan crowd. He did get the endorsement of Governor Haley Barbour, however, and he has been a successful state chairman and fundraiser in Wisconsin. Speaker John Boehner endorsed Maria Cino, one of the Bush operatives and former Deputy Chairman of the RNC during the Bush Administration. Cino came in a surprising third in the first ballot, presumably the result of Boehner's lobbying for votes, but she was unable to close the deal. Another Bush ally, Ambassador Ann Wager, came in fifth on the first ballot and never gained momentum, finally withdrawing from the race after several ballots.

Early reports on Priebus are promising. At 38 years old, he is young, energetic, and competent. Cutting the RNC's ties to establishment Republicans in D.C. is a good thing. Voters have long observed that there is a disconnect between the RNC and the grassroots. Michael Steele seemingly did a pretty good job of getting out there and meeting grassroots voters. And he won elections. But Priebus watched Steele from the inside of RNC operations in his role as RNC Counsel, and his decision to challenge Steele speaks volumes.

RNC members with whom I have spoken are encouraged by the election of Priebus. The RNC must play a major role in the defeat of President Obama. Chairman Priebus has the ability; he will also need the support of all Republicans, including the establishment.

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