With the Republican Party of Iowa electing a new chairman this coming weekend, I’ve decided to postpone my prediction post. Don’t worry; it can wait a day or two. I think the selection of the leader of our party is far more important than me trying to accurately predict the future, which you all know I’m good at anyway.
I spent some time this weekend reading the reaction and commentary of the candidate forum on various blogs and newspapers. Again, kudos to the six people who participated, we need more dedicated people like them who care deeply about the future of our Party. As I’ve reminded my readers time and time again, these races are complicated and can change on a whim.
If Gopal Krishna’s absence from the forum means he is not running for chair, then there are three candidates in play, Danny Carroll, Matt Randall, and Matt Strawn. Now I know there are some who mock me for still mentioning Gopal as a serious candidate. I do so not because I’m naïve, I do so because unlike Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney who refused to kill off John McCain when he was down, I want to see my prey mounted in my trophy room, not stealing a victory.
For the most part Saturday’s forum was a healthy exercise. However I’m disappointed in the lack of vision the candidates offered. It seemed to me the debate was centered on the party platform, internal communication between the state party and county organizations/activists, and the use of new technologies. Those issues have been debated continuously in blogs, but I was disappointed that the issues debated ended there because even if executed perfectly, I doubt they make a major impact on outcome of the general election.
Missing was any substantive discussion of fundraising. Sure every candidate says it’s important and claim that they can raise significant amounts of cash, but to effectively raise money you have to give the donor a reason to give. That’s what was lacking. It’s not good enough to just say we need your money to win elections. What are we raising money for? To pay staff, the electric bill, fund an early voter program. For the new chairman to be effective in fundraising, they must be able to articulate the purpose for the party. I can’t answer that for any of the candidates right now. If forced to tell a donor what their contribution is go toward I’d say internal party communication, YouTube videos, a glossy cover on the party platform, and staff salaries. I doubt many donors will be excited about that.
It’s also important to realize that in the last election cycle the RNC gave 1.7 million to the party. Sure that money was for the McCain effort, but in 2010 Iowa Republican’s will not get a dime from the national party. So how are we going to fill that void? We will be on our own to build a statewide infrastructure to help our candidates.
Our next chairman needs to focus on cutting the Democrat’s voter registration advantage, building a voter database that is comparable or better than the Democrats, and determining what the party can provide our Republican candidates at all levels to help them be successful. While this debate is one that rightfully includes the activists of our party, the focus of the discussion needs to be about voter, more specifically how register and turn out more Republican voters.
Some scoff at the idea that the SCC can still look outside of the six candidates who participated in Saturday’s forum for our chairman, I think it is their responsibility to find the best person for the job, not give it to the person who wants it the most. Many people were not happy with our 2008 US Senate candidates, or some of the candidates who ran for Congress because we limited ourselves to those who were willing to run, choosing not to go out and encourage or ask the best and brightest people in our party to run.
The best way to unite the party is to make sure our next chairman is the absolute best person possible for the job.
Good read: Steve Deace has a good write up on the chairman forum.