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Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell on his bid to be RNC chair.

Saturday, December 13, 2008
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HH: Pleased to welcome now my friend, Ken Blackwell, formerly Secretary of State of Ohio, mayor of Cincinnati, great American and candidate for the Republican National Committee. Ken, welcome, good to have you here, friend.

KB: Hugh, good to be with you, exciting times.

HH: It is, and congratulations on your decision to seek the RNC chairmanship. First question is why did the GOP get smacked in ’06, and why did McCain-Palin lose in ’08?

KB: Well, I think let’s start with the fact that in 2000 and 2004, Republicans ran what I consider to be a 28 state strategy. And it worked for Karl Rove and George Bush. But it was not without its cost. And that meant that we were underdeveloped in the balance of the states. And this time around, we got shellacked, because the Democrats had not only the infrastructure, the technological infrastructure, they had the human capital, boots on the ground, human resources that were mobilized, and they just beat us in the exercise of a 50 state strategy. I think that’s part of the reason on the mechanical execution side. I think as I’ve said to you before, too many Republicans have recently campaigned like Ronald Reagan, and then governed like Jimmy Carter. And people will make you pay a price for that sort of duplicity, that sort of, you know, living a falsehood. And so as a consequence of people being frustrated, as people realizing that we had adopted the mantra and the philosophy of the other big government party, they made us pay a price back in 2006. And we couldn’t dig ourselves out of a hole in 2008. The fact is, is that this economy went to hell in a hand basked over a period of time, and that period of time included when Republicans were in control. And ironically, even though Democrats were in the majority in the Congress, Barack Obama could run as the breath of fresh air, and the agent of change.

HH: Now Ken Blackwell, putting aside the ideology for just a moment, I want to stay on some of the technical stuff that an RNC chairman would be charged with. How great is the technology gap between the RNC and the DNC, and how can it be closed?

KB: Well, I think in 2000, 2004, we were technologically superior to the Democrats. Maybe being hungry makes you creative, and being fat and happy makes you inactive and unattentive to detail. The gap is substantial not in terms of understanding the technology or having access to the technology, it’s the deployment of the technology, because we were deploying this technology and, you know, almost 45% fewer states than the Democrats. So I think we can make a substantial leap forward. One of the brilliant things, Hugh, about technology is that it can accelerate in its implementation, the change of social and political and economic conditions. As you know, for three years in Bush 41’s administration, well two years in Bush 41 and about a year in the first Clinton term, I was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and I traveled all over the world promoting religious liberty and not only recognition, but the full granting of human rights. And as a consequence, what I realized was that there were some second world countries that through the use of technology, India being an example, they will see a more rapid economic development process because they are using modern technology. So I think Republicans can learn from that, if we want to close the gap?

HH: I’ve got to make sure I get one more question in before we run out of time, and that has to do with our primary calendar. I’m afraid we’re going to get a reverse Operation Chaos, that the Democrats won’t have anyone to play with when it comes 2012, so they’ll flood Iowa, they’ll flood New Hampshire. If you’re the head of the RNC, do you think we have to change our primary calendar for nominating a president? Do we have to tighten up our rules on who gets to play?

KB: Well, I think there…as a former secretary of state, I’ve seen several plans that are fair, they’re balanced, and they maintain some degree of balance between retail politics and a national primary which would be just disastrous. And so we must attend to that primary schedule, or we’re going to find this gets crazier and crazier.

HH: So do you think Iowa has to go first? Does New Hampshire have to stand alone?

KB: I think there’s a role for that sort of small retail politics. I don’t think it always, they always have to go first. I think we’re going to probably see a compromise where if they always go first, then there’s going to be a rotation as the calendar goes out, there’ll be a rotation in who is last, who is second, who is third.

HH: There’s a new commission on that, Ken. I’m assuming you’ll want to appoint me to that if you’re the RNC chair.

KB: (laughing) You know what? I’m going to make you the czar of technology if I’m the RNC chair.

HH: All right, I’ll go with that, because I’ve got Rob Neppell of www.kithbridge.com to work that with me. 45 seconds, Ken Blackwell, Latino vote, we lost it. How do we get it back?

KB: Well, we’ve got to go and we have to place the order. Latinos, they love education, they love, they are a religious people, they are a family-oriented people. We just have to speak to them. We don’t have to abandon our conservative and fundamental principles. We just have to articulate them so that people understand that our principles can produce policies to help change their lives.

HH: Ken Blackwell, always a pleasure, my friend.

End of interview.

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