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Memo To The House GOP

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For: John Boehner, Roy Blunt, and NRCC Chair Tom Cole

From: A Longtime Supporter

Subject: The Cash Crunch And The Elections of 2008

We all know you are getting crushed by the Dems when it comes to fundraising.

We also know you are working hard to turn this around. We also see that the Pelosi Democrats are significantly to the left of the public face they put on last fall, and that on a number of issues the GOP caucus has held together and scored wins.

So why is there this gap? Why isn’t the money flowing in with which to take back the House?

The answer has to be that people don’t give to unknowns, and they certainly don’t want to give to any GOP candidate who isn’t solid on the war, on border security, on spending and taxes. They aren’t buying –or sacrificing for– the hope that the candidates who emerge in 2008 will be the sort they are proud to back.

The key to getting some energy back in the donor base –small and large– is to identify the challengers on whose success will come the return of the majority.

Some GOP leaders say the party doesn’t play in primaries. That’s nonsense. Yes it does, when it wants to, and we know that.

Some say it is too early to push hard. That may have been true under the old calender, but the old rules are smashed up and the lead the Dems are building may become insurmountable unless you folks wake up and start acting like a party that wants the majority back –badly. The contrast between the parties is already as sharp as it is going to get. If you can’t raise money right now, it isn’t because your donors don’t understand who’s in charge on the Hill. They do know, but it is also clear that they don’t trust you to mount the sort of campaign necessary to win in ’08. They aren’t going to send scarce resources to a gang that can’t shoot straight politically, even if your agenda is a good one. If you won’t make the tough calls or take the hard steps to start a long and difficult campaign, they aren’t going to send in the money such a campaign requires.

You need to make the base believe you can win back a majority, and that takes candidates in districts currently held by Democrats. There are 233 Democrats and 202 Republicans. That means the GOP needs to find at least 16 new faces to take seats away from Democrats, and probably a couple of more given the weakness of some of the GOP incumbents.

So make some moves to prove you are serious about getting the majority back and not just protecting the incumbency of Members comfortable in the minority.

Establish a fund for challengers only and do the legal footwork necessary to segregate it from the NRCC’s general fund.

Then carefully identify those candidates who will benefit from that fund and make an absolute commitment that they and only they will get these funds, and get them on an equal basis. It doesn’t have to be a list of 16 right now, but it should be growing in that direction, but carefully. Before adding anyone to that list, do a thorough vetting with the donor base on whether they want that candidate to benefit from a fund designed to help the top priority challengers. The internet allows you to govern the addition of names via a poll of the donors who have given, say, at least $100. Not only would this protect against the fund being crippled by the addition of a round-heeled Republican, it would also provide you with a reason for saying no to weak candidates demanding access to the money. Transparency at every step is crucial because the base doesn’t trust you.

Then –and this is the crucial part– flood the challengers’ fund’s site with information about each of those races. If you want to take back the House, show the donors how that can be done, and where it is happening.

Don’t make the mistake of throwing into the mix a favorite son or daughter who is on the wrong side of any of the key issues.

Do the smart thing and make sure the list of key challengers is heavy with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. (In fact, a list of challengers that was exclusively made up of such candidates would swell with donations overnight.) Make sure that when the GOP campaigns for a return to majority status, the donors –and the public– know it is on a platform of winning not retreating in Iraq specifically and the war generally.

These steps are so obvious that not taking them raises fundamental questions about the leadership’s commitment to trying to win back the majority.

It seems clear that right now the GOP is not poised to do anything except give up more ground in the House. That’s obvious, and so your response should be obvious as well.


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