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RNC Chair Mike Duncan on whether he’ll run again or not, and what needs to change in the party. You decide.

Monday, December 8, 2008

HH: In a continuing effort to bring at least one interview with everyone who might be the next chairman of the Republican National Committee, I’m pleased to welcome the GOP’s Mr. December, that’s the current RNC chairman, Mike Duncan. He won two House races yesterday, and the Republican Party held on to the Georgia Senate seat. It looks like it’s going to hold on to Minnesota as well. Mike Duncan, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

MD: Hugh, good to be with you, and thank you for that. I would have rather been Mr. November, but December helps us get off the mat and get started again.

HH: It does. Are you confident about Minnesota at this point, Mike Duncan, and Norm Coleman?

MD: Yes, we’ve won that at every level. We won on Election Day, we won the recount, we won the recanvass. We’re going to win this. It’s going to be held in the state of Minnesota. They’re not going to send it to Washington, and the people have elected Norm Coleman there. It would be great Christmas present if we could get certified by the 16th of this month.

HH: All right, now Mike Duncan, why did the GOP lose in ’06? Why did McCain-Palin lose in ’08?

MD: Well, we disappointed the American people. Look, we were ahead on September the 15th in many polls with John McCain, even though we had an opportunity, even though I believe a just war, we had the three terms of electing a consecutive administration to the White House against us. But finally, the thing that did us in this time was the economic downturn, the recession that we’re in. People punished us. We were in charge, we didn’t do the job, and we’re listening to people now trying to get back on track. And I think what we did in Georgia, and what we did in Louisiana shows that we still know how to win elections.

HH: Now Mike Duncan, the fact is, I’ve never talked to you before, right?

MD: I think that’s correct.

HH: Now why would your office never have reached out to a nationally-syndicated talk show host who’d been on the air for eight years with a couple of million people listening before? Why did that not happen?

MD: I can’t answer that other than to say the first year, my job was to do the strategy and make the grass roots run, and that Mel Martinez was out spokesman during the first year, and then after that, November of last year, I started, and we had a presidential candidate. The political focus went on John McCain right after that. I’ve been very content to be the person in the back, raising the money, getting the strategy out, doing things. I understand that I’ve got to step up and move forward with a new role moving forward if I choose to run for chairman.

HH: Well, that’s the hundred thousand dollar question. Are you going to run for chairman?

MD: Well, Hugh, I will make a decision this week. I’m looking at it, talking to my family about it, I’m trying to make sure that we’ve got everything finished from 2008. That’s why I wanted to get through Georgia, I wanted to get through Louisiana. Hopefully, we’ll know a little bit more about Minnesota, and I hope to have a decision this week.

HH: Are you leaning that way?

MD: (laughing) Good try. Good try.

HH: Well, I mean, people…I’m talking to Chip Saltsman next hour, I’ve already talked with Michael Steele, I’ve talked with Saul Anuzis, all these guys are coming on and they’re running hard, and the race goes to the swift sometimes when it’s a sprint. And people just want to know should they keep their track shoes on, or should they sign up with another team?

MD: Well look, I have a record to run on. They’re all…all the people that you mentioned are friends of mine. We’re worked hard together in the trenches, and we’ll continue to work hard together in the future. I have a record. But I have a job here to do at the RNC. Today, for example, I had the budget committee, and we were preparing the budget for 2009. I needed to concentrate on that. So I do have a day job that has kept me busy. But very soon, I’ll make an announcement.

HH: How great is the tech gap between the RNC and the DNC?

MD: Well, there’s a big myth there. You know, if you look at the total number of e-mails that we have, and the total number that Obama has, we’re very close. We have over 12 and a half million e-mail at the RNC. So we’ve not done the job of promoting this, because we’ve got some technology, frankly, that we don’t want to talk about. In Georgia, we were able to focus, microtarget 600,000 Republicans that we delivered 79 million impressions on the internet through using the search terms, and also using the portals to do those pop-up ads. So we have a lot of things that we do that we just don’t go around bragging all the time. But they’re very effective, and you saw that. We banked 200,000 votes going into election day in Georgia, and that had to do a lot with the technology, the microtargeting that we used there.

HH: Now Mike Duncan, that alarms me a little bit, because we’re way behind on Facebook, on Twitter. McCain-Palin didn’t…

MD: Oh, no, no. Let’s talk about that. The DNC and the RNC, we’re 11,000 ahead of the DNC head to head on Facebook. Barack Obama was a phenomenon.

HH: Well, that’s what I’m talking about.

MD: His campaign is way ahead, but the DNC and RNC head to head is…

HH: Okay, let’s count, let’s give them Barack Obama since he’s the leader of their party.

MD: Right.

HH: Aren’t they swamping our boats?

MD: Well, you would have to compare John McCain’s effort on Facebook with that. We’ve got to do apples to apples on this. Look, we outraised the DNC directly $150 million dollars in this cycle. We raised over $425 million dollars so far this time. That’s head to head with the DNC.

HH: Are you blaming McCain-Palin then? Are you saying it’s not the RNC?

MD: No, I’m not blaming them. I think everyone has different campaign tactics, and they have different styles and different ways of doing things. And I’m telling you that the RNC has the tools to get the job done, and you’re going to see more and more of that as we go forward. We’ve already crossed the line in our fundraising where we’re raising more on a monthly basis now from the internet than we are with phones. That’s the future for us. We understand that. We at one point had 1.9 million total donors this year. They gave us 3.8 million donations. And 900,000 of those were new donors for the Republican Party. We’re very excited about the prospects of the party.

HH: All right, tell me a little bit, are you on Twitter, by the way, Mike Duncan?

MD: I do not Twitter. I have a lot of technology. I have two different blackberries that I carry. I find that in my job, I need to concentrate and listen to people very carefully. So if I’m Twittering while I’m talking to them, that’s not as good. But we have the capability here in the building, a lot of the guys here do it. My favorite technology right now is the Kindle. I don’t know if you…

HH: Sure, you bet.

MD: You get your books online that way, getting your news that way, they send you e-mails that way. I find that that’s the technology I really enjoy that when I have some quiet time that I use.

HH: And where do you get your information? Which books have you been reading? Which blogs? Which newspapers?

MD: Oh, gee, I read all kinds of blogs. I read a lot of the Kentucky blogs that I have to do every day. Liz Mair here in the building keeps me up with Red State, and I mean, I talk to lots of different blogs. We have 5,000 blogs that we correspond with here at the RNC, so every day I get different clippings of that. Sometimes I go into the blog if it’s something I want to look at specifically. But I get my information off the internet primarily, and off the clipping services that are on the internet.

HH: Any books that have made an impact on you recently?

MD: Well, I read lots of different things. I’m reading one now called Evil Genes. It talks about, I mean, it talks about, it’s not something that a politician normally would read. But it has to do with psychology, and I find that stuff fascinating. I’m…of course, everyone’s read Team Of Rivals. I got a book last night on Andrew Jackson…

HH: American Lion, the new book by Meacham.

MD: Right, yup. I want to read that. That’s a gift that I’ve got on my shelf right now to read.

HH: All right, now what about the youth and Latino votes. They broke decisively towards Barack Obama. How does the Republican Party address both demographics?

MD: Well if we don’t, we’re going to go out of business. I mean, we do have to have the Latino vote going forward in this country. The demographics are there. We’ve seen it for quite some time, and we have to do that on a consistent basis by talking to them and appealing to them with the values of the Republican Party. And it’s doing that over a consistent period of time. The youth vote, we do that by reaching out, I was involved in the first youth movement in the country when we got the right to vote in 1972. I saw how we organized that. I’m committed to helping the different affiliate groups we have organized at college campuses. But more than that, I’m committed to going there and talking to them myself. One of my biggest disappointments with Chairman Dean is that I couldn’t get him to appear with me. I mean, I wanted to go to college campuses and appear with Dean. He wouldn’t do that. We did two appearances – The Gridiron Club, and we did the day after the election at the Press Club. So I’m looking forward to more personal outreach in that manner.

HH: Now in terms of the younger conservatives who matter out there, if you have to send someone to a college campus, who’s your nominee to do that? Who’s under 30 that matters in our party?

MD: Well, I think there are lots of people that we have, and one of the things that we’re going to be doing is putting together this national surrogate organization that emphasizes not just the same faces, but I think Sarah Palin would be a very big hit on campuses. I’ve seen Mitt Romney work with young people I know that he’s very well received. I think there are places that Mike Huckabee would be. But you know, there are lots of new people like Joseph Cao in Lousiana. Think what a success story he had.

HH: But no one under 30 comes to mind, Mike Duncan?

MD: …and what he leaves…we have legislative leaders in this country that are under 30. I look at some of our young guns in Congress that are leaders of the party. Those are the kinds of people that would relate with college students.

HH: All right, let me talk to you lastly about the primary calendar. Does it need to be changed? Does it have to be other than Iowa or New Hampshire, or a different ordering, or additional states? Do they have to participate early?

MD: Well, we have a commission that’s going to be working on that. I’ll be appointing people to a fifteen person commission…

HH: Can I be appointed to that commission?

MD: Have not, but I…

HH: No, can I? Would you give me one?

MD: I’m in the process of doing it. Would you apply for it?

HH: No, I mean, just right now, I’ll take it.

MD: I would…it’s for people who aren’t members of the RNC that I can appoint, and I’m actually meeting with the chairman, former chairman of the RNC next week to talk about their ideas, and who they suggest to be involved. If you applied, I’d give you great consideration.

HH: I’m in. My hat’s in the ring, Mr. Chairman, right now, because I think we’ve got to change this thing. What do you think? Does it have to change?

MD: Hugh, e-mail me or Twitter me. I think it has to change for the good of the country. I think the campaign was way too long. I think Barack Obama broke the trust of the American people by not taking the federal money this time, and campaign finance as we know it is dead. And while we’re looking at campaign finance, we’ve got to look at the primary system.

HH: And how much, are we going to have to reject campaign finance next presidential cycle?

MD: I don’t think any major candidate will ever take it again, and I think that’s why I sued to the FEC to make sure that we can start taking non-federal money so that we can be on parity.

HH: Amen, that’s reality. Mike Duncan, please callus back when you’ve decided to get in officially, but it sounds like you’re running. I appreciate the time today.

MD: Hugh, I will, and I do believe I’ve been on your show before, by the way. I’m going to go back and check just to make sure.

HH: And I am serious, I want to be on that commission, so you’ll be hearing from me.

MD: Send me a Twitter or an e-mail, we’ll get it.

HH: What’s your Twitter address?

MD: Well, e-mail…we will send it to you.

HH: All right, I’ll find you. All right, Mike Duncan from the RNC, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

End of interview.

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