Anuzis highlights tech experience

After announcing his bid for the RNC chair last week by highlighting Michael Steele’s shortcomings in fundraising and the ground game, Saul Anuzis predictably started highlighting his tech-friendly background as a point of difference between him and the incumbent.

“It’s critical we integrated new media into everyday politics. It works, it’s efficient and we need to do it,” Anuzis told The Hill when contacted over the weekend. He also said his candidacy has already sparked enthusiasm among social networking aficianados.

What will excite online activists even more is that Anuzis isn’t making the election all about technology to begin with.  His initial announcement dealt with main, overarching problems he saw in the RNC.  Anuzis then brought up technology as a response to how he would deal with those problems.

Whether or not he is ultimately successful, arguing for technology as a means rather than an end prevents Anuzis from being labeled as a niche “tech candidate” and positions him as a more serious challenger.

Anuzis challenges Steele

The Weekly Standard caught a tweet from Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan Republican Party chairman, saying he will again run for RNC Chair.  He will probably not be the only challenger to incumbent Michael Steele.

Steele seemed like a good fit for the job when he bested five rivals – including Anuzis – in January 2009 in a grueling, multi-ballot race.  He provided much-needed racial diversity to the ranks of the Republican talking heads and brought blue-state credibility.  On the heels of the 2008 shellacking, the Republicans badly needed to demonstrate they were more than a party of white southerners.

From the beginning, there were whispers about Steele’s lack of conservative street cred.  Where Steele has drawn criticism, though, has been in the “blocking and tackling” – the basic elements of a party chair’s job, like fundraising and building a GOTV infrastructure.  (In fact, Anuzis uses just that term.)  After a six-way race for the chairmanship, criticism was inevitable for whoever won, but Steel made it easier.  The whispers in Republican circles (which “unnamed sources” give voice to in the Weekly Standard piece) is that the 2010 gains should have been bigger.

In his announcement, Anuzis channels the 2008 McCain campaign (which poked at then-candidate Obama’s quasi-celebrity status):

My agenda is very straightforward. I have no interest in running for office. I won’t be writing a book.  It is not my goal to be famous. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who will work harder, more diligently and be more committed to electing Republicans from the top to every township and city across this great country of ours.

It isn’t worth including at this point in the campaign, but Anuzis has another bullet left in his chamber: his background in digital politics.  As the race for RNC chair heats up, look for Anuzis to use this – accompanied by criticism of the failed initial launch of – to separate himself from the pack.

In fairness, Pelosi DOES look like Cruella D’Evil

Three slides from a 72-slide presentation on fundraising are causing headaches over at the RNC. The PowerPoint talks about why people give money, with “ego” and “fear” being the terms that have gotten the most press.

There’s nothing in the presentation that wouldn’t be found in most lectures or lessons on how to raise money – though the RNC could have chosen the word “urgency” over “fear.”  Though embarrassing, the story will likely not affect many voters in November.

Yet this story matters to RNC donors.

The RNC is getting a bad reputation for its fundraising (or lack thereof).  Michael Steele has been under fire for the amounts of money both coming in and going out.  A frequent criticism is that Steele does not schmooze the big-dollar donors.  This leaked presentation has hit the national media, but it’s only the latest in a series of stories in the inside the beltway trade press that hammers Steele – and donors who write big checks read those media outlets.

These stories will have no effect if the RNC is in front of its donors, keeping them updated on the organization’s plans and making sure that, no matter what Politico says, they are valued members of the team.  If the RNC isn’t defining their donor relationships, Politico will do it for them.

Six candidates, two questions, three answers

I finally got around to watching/listening to the entire 90-minute televised RNC Chair debate sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform on Monday. Predictably, there were discussions of technological improvement of party infrastructure, recruiting among young voters and minority populations, and of course political philosophy.

For those party faithful looking for a candidate to emerge from that debate as a well-read scholar of the conservative philosophy that is the bedrock of the party, the debate could only have been a disappointment. There were questions with obvious answers – moderator Grover Norquist asked each candidate if he was prolife, each said yes – and buzz-phrases – the theme of “returning to our party’s small-government roots” was echoed by each candidate.

There were two excellent questions which could have shed some light on each candidate’s understanding of conservatism: “Who is your favorite Republican President?” and “Who is your least favorite Republican President.”

The first question was answered by each candidate in rapid succeession. Each said “Ronald Reagan.” That’s certainly a safe answer, but it would have been nice to hear one candidate say, “Reagan is my favorite, but since everyone else will say that, I’ll throw Calvin Coolidge in there too.” Along with Reagan, Coolidge was the other 20th century President who gave the concept of smaller, restrained government involvement – so mentioning him would have expressed an understanding of how those ideas have been put into practice by a good President. (And I’m not just saying that because I lived in a building named after the man for three happy years.)

On the question about each candidate’s least favorite Republican President, most candidates answered with some variation of the following: “I don’t have a least favorite Republican. Any Republican is better than any Democrat.” If you’re scoring at home, that’s the opposite of philosophical understanding. Give credit to Ken Blackwell, who named Herbert Hoover – Coolidge’s successor who abandoned free market ideas when the economy stalled, making a bad situation worse. Sound familiar?

All this is the long way to say that the RNC chair doesn’t want to go out on an ideological limb. But will they need to?

Nancy Scola at TechPresident sums up an ongoing debate on the right about the balance between the Republican Party’s tactical evolution and philosophical rebirth – and points out that by having a party that’s open to expanded grassroots involvement, the national leaders may not need to be fighting the good fight all the time. As Scola points out, the 1994 Contract with America was less a top-down set of talking points and more a grassroots roadmap for the Republican Revolution, with the focus on local leaders rather than a national figurehead.

The next RNC chair will have to appreciate the role of conservatives in defining the party’s direction and legislative agenda, but he may not need to be the second coming of Russell Kirk.

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RNC Chair Debate Week

It’s a big week for the GOP, with no fewer than three different forums for the six candidates vying to be the next RNC chair. The first one is hosted today by Americans for Tax Reform. The race has, as Politico pointed out this morning, laid bare some rifts within the Republican party.

As we listen in to these forums, my personal hope is to hear something more creative than we saw from Republicans over the past two years. Just before Christmas, Rob Willington of broke down the candidate’s answers to a questionnaire released by Virginia’s RNC Committeeman Morton Blackwell. Willington charted the candidates’ use of several key terms (such as “technology,” “recruitment,” “Internet,” etc.). Though the candidates ran through many of the same themes, there were some differences in how those themes were presented. For instance, Saul Anuzis – the candidate who launched his bid on Twitter – did not mention technology once in his responses.

During the Republican presidential primaries, candidates all but fell over each other themselves “conservative” or quote Ronald Reagan. But as much as I consider myself a conservative who admires Ronald Reagan, I don’t want to hear that from a Republican leader. I want someone who walks the walk – and when they talk the talk, it shouldn’t be directed at the “base” but at the people who should be in the base but aren’t – like the record numbers of people signing up for the party of pay-to-play.

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