Two elections are looming with enormous consequences for the campaign to return the White House to responsible hands.
The first will be the vote of the House GOP Steering Committee to name the chairman of the Financial Services Committee. While many have focused on the contest to see who will lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee ought to matter much more to conservatives because not only does it oversee the aftermath of TARP and the future of Fannie and Freddie, but even more crucially for the broader governing effort, one of the two candidates who wants to lead it, Spencer Bachus, managed to insult the Tea Party and Sarah Palin within days of the election victories they helped power.
The key issue facing the GOP is the encouragement of the Tea Party to remain squarely within the Republican Party as partners and respected allies int he fight against big government. Rewarding a Tea Party critic with a key chairmanship sends an unmistakable signal of disdain that will not be forgotten by the thousands of groups organized under the Tea Party banner.
Yesterday I interviewed the conservative challenger to Bachus for the Financial Services chairmanship –California’s Ed Royce. The transcript of that interview will be posted here later this weekend. Royce is a real-deal conservative, a long-time critic of Fannie and Freddie, and an experienced and successful Barney Frank opponent in the House wars. This is not a hard call and Royce should be the next chair, but it is up to the yet-to-be-named House GOP Steering Committee which will be, as it should be, dominated by John Boehner and Eric Cantor. Hopefully these two will take Bachus aside and provide him a consolation prize along with a lecture on the contributions of the Tea Party and the strategic importance of the grassroots to members who have to battle in highly competitive districts.
The second race which is some months off is for the RNC Chairmanship. Michael Steele wants to hold on to his job but most observers doubt that he can given the importance of fund-raising in a cycle that will see President Obama blow past the billion-dollar mark early. Steele is a very good man who has done some good things at the RNC, but a change is coming, the question is who should run the place that primarily must raise money and get it to the state parties for registration and future GOTV efforts. The presidency may hinge on a few thousand votes in one or two states two years from now, and the money and organization must begin to be assembled now.
One candidate already in the hunt is Saul Anuzis, who was my guest on yesterday’s show. That transcript is here. Anuzis would be a great co-chair along with an “outside guy” skilled at raising money and enthusiasm, and also with steady media instincts when the MSM comes calling. It is fine to say that the new chair ought to be far less visible than Steele has been, but there is an inevitability to some high-profile media exposure, and the key is to make steady points about the failings of the president on those occasions and not to become the story or blow an opportunity. John Boehner and Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl will do the lion’s share of the talking until a presidential nominee emerges, but the RNC Chair has to be out front some times, and especially in rooms where donors write checks.
There are 168 voters in this election, the members of the RNC. They have to serve the state parties they represent and look for someone who will get them the funds they need to build or rebuild party machinery. These people have an enormous responsibility and they are by-and-large very dedicated and very talented insiders. The race deserves a lot of thought (and a lot of MSM and new media attention).
I suggest they try and coax Bill Bennett into the job with a strong co-chair for day-to-day operations with Bill turned loose to raise and bank prodigious amounts of cash for the party to use to help its nominee in 2012 counter the president’s avalanche of dough. Bennett is simply the best expositor of Reagan values in the land who is not a candidate for anything, and he has the experience and intelligence to make such appeals to donors and to represent the party in the media. Of course he should stay on the radio while he does the job, and CNN as well –many great chairmen have had other jobs as they did the party’s business.
If not Bennett –and I haven’t bothered to ask him what he thinks about this idea– then someone else with the same abilities. The skills sets are relatively rare but the 168 voters on the committee need to recruit not just respond. The job matters enough to get the best chair possible for the crucial two years ahead.