Some weeks ago, RedState asked the candidates for RNC Chairman to provide some responses to ten issues we’re deeply interested in. The issues go beyond the need for a spokesman for a party and get to the heart of what the RNC and the RNC Chairman are all about.
Saul Anuzis is the first to respond. What follows is his unedited response:
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my plan to bring back the GOP. I would encourage you also to download, read and share my Blueprint for a GOP Comeback. Comments and suggestions always are welcome. – Saul Anuzis
1. Please state your qualifications for the job and why those qualifications make you the best choice.
We must be the party that offers hope to all of America. Too many, in our own Party, have lost touch with voters in places like my home state of Michigan, and the Great Lakes states. For a long time, we have written off entire regions like the northeast and the west coast. And now we are beginning to see our party lose ground in the south and the mountain states. It is time to look at the fundamentals and stop focusing only on the tactics. When we are true to our ideals, that message resonates in every corner of America.
It’s time that the Republican Party looked at America through a different set of eyes. I’m not part of the Republican establishment. I wasn’t born and raised a Republican. I joined the Republican Party in my teens because it was the party that reflected my values, hopes and dreams.
As the son of an immigrant who found the American dream in a car factory in Detroit, Michigan, I know that the American dream is still alive – in every coal miner, grocery store clerk, hotel maid, school teacher and yes, every auto worker – in every corner of this country. And you’ll never convince me that Republican ideas cannot win those Americans hearts and minds.
2. Please explain how you see the role of RNC Chairman.
When we have a Republican President in the White House it is critical that the RNC and the White House work hand in glove for two critical reasons:
First, no matter how great the RNC Chairman is, he/she will never have more of a pulpit than the Oval Office. The party is defined by the President and we must recognize that fact.
Second, the President is the strongest fundraising tool the RNC has. If the President is going to use his “brand” to raise money for the RNC he has a right to have some influence over where those funds are going.
When the President is not a Republican, the role of the Chairman is very different. The Chairman must now wear many hats. The Chairman must be:
A Strong Communicator – From Meet the Press to local cable access, it will be our party chairman’s job to take the party’s message to the nation. Whether it’s online, print, radio or TV media the Chairman must be confident and prepared to go toe-to-toe with the press. I have developed relationships with many national political reporters. I am passionate about our party, passionate about our values and have the experience and the ability to effectively communicate our message in any medium. I also view it as the duty of the Chairman to “shine a spotlight” on all our GOP leaders as we start our comeback. The party should not be represented by just one celebrity spokesperson. Instead, I will work to bring all of our Governors, Senators, Members of Congress and other Republican leaders to highlight their talents and look to them to carry our message to the American people.
An Effective Fundraiser – Fundraising is much more difficult without a Republican President. We must look to our chairman to be innovative, aggressive and energetic in communicating the merits of investing in our party. This person must feel as comfortable with party donors as they are with grassroots activists and they must instill confidence in donors at every level. When I became state chairman in Michigan, I didn’t know most of our donors personally. But I set out to create an environment of communication, to expand our donor pool and pursue activities that would energize the donor community. We created a party worthy of investment. I have built an infrastructure that has raised significant resources, using every available tool. And during my tenure as chairman, even though we had no Governor and no U.S. Senators to assist our efforts, we were one of the top state parties in the nation in terms of fundraising.
A Valued Partner to State Party Leaders – There is a tendency in Washington to think that all of the best ideas, best strategy and best minds – are in Washington. Out in the states, we know that isn’t true. We see our Governors as leaders, committed to conservative principles and dedicated to producing results. We have great talent in our state party offices. In some states, the leadership has been largely ignored because they aren’t seen as a “battleground.” In some states, the state leadership hasn’t been consulted, as the national campaigns have pursued strategy and tactics. In nearly every case, the flow of information between Washington and the states has been inadequate. And state-to-state sharing of ideas and best practices has been discouraged. I want to change this relationship. I want to work with our field teams to think of their state leadership as partners. I want to hold “best practices” roundtables at our RNC meetings.
A Dynamic Leader in the Use of New Media – In 2008, we saw the Obama campaign “own” the field of new media. Their use of the Internet to raise small contributions not only created a fundraising juggernaut, but also very likely changed the world of Presidential campaign finance as we know it. Obama’s use of text messaging opened politics to a new generation of voters. And their effective and consistent use of YouTube, web banner advertising, and social networking sites, created a field army that was unparalleled. Our ground efforts were strong and as inadequate as the media would have you believe. But they were no match for the Obama network that had penetrated every neighborhood in the country. We cannot continue to lag behind on this front. I have used every resource there is to communicate our message in Michigan. Four years ago, I was the first state party chairman to start a blog. I immediately saw the difference it was making in my state and I shared those best practices with every other state party chair through emails, letters, memorandums, and phone calls. To that end, I have been honored to be a Redstate diarist, commenter, and even a front-page contributor. I will continue to use modern tools to effectively communicate and I will make it a point to train others how to do so effectively. With regard to “What’s next?” I believe the RNC should act as an incubator for good ideas and best practices. I plan to create a network of technologists, artists, consultants, and other new media specialists to consistently meet and work together to find better ways to communicate. No single consulting firm or person should be responsible of helping the party to catch up comprehensively online and I look forward to working alongside an array of folks to do just that.
A Conscientious Manager and Administrator – The RNC raises and expends hundreds of millions of dollars, employs more than 100 full-time staff, and conducts business throughout the United States and the Territories. The Chairman must ensure sound managerial and administrative oversight of the RNC and all its operations. I have served as the CEO of a large company and of one of the largest state party organizations. I understand the necessity of hiring quality managers possessing demonstrable experience, maturity, and commitment. We have improved the business practices and transparency of our state party operations. I inherited a state party organization with no debt, and ended each of my two election-cycles as state chairman with no debt.
In addition must ensure that our staff structure and vendor relationships reflect our new realities and goals. Where people and programs are the best in their field, I will be wise enough to retain them. Where improvements can be made, I will not be shy about making changes. We must seek the best people and best companies to work for and with the RNC. We must always be mindful of our fiduciary responsibilities and make sure every dollar spent on staff, vendors, programs, and products is maximized. And I will demand that staff and vendors understand that they work for the committee and not the other way around.
3. Please outline how you see the role of RNC Chairman in terms of structuring the Republican message and platform.
Our Party is built on the relationships we all have with one another as activists and party leaders; elected officials and constituents and the common belief that our conservative approach to governance is in the best interest of our nation. The relationships that form the fabric of our Party should always be a grassroots-up relationship of equals and not a Washington-down paternalistic relationship. As RNC Chairman I promise the following:
- We will be a Party of solutions not just be the opposition party. We need to present opposition in the form of BETTER solutions.
- That ideals will once again matter. We will sponsor a monthly In-person & Online interactive Ideas symposium showcasing the best and brightest Republican thinkers and visionaries from all over the country.
- To create and RNC Policy Task Force. We will revive the Policy Task Force model, integrating Party leadership from the House, Senate, Republican Governor’s Association, Republican State Leadership Committee, conservative think tanks, and the best minds in our party in Washington and around the country.
- We will be mindful of the Platform adopted at the 2008 Republican National Convention and will be supportive and respectful of these core principles.
- We will seek more State Input on policy ideas from leaders and grassroots activists in the states and territories. Our most vibrant ideas are more apt to come from county seats, state capitols, dorm rooms, or coffee shops than from Washington DC.
- Will work closely with our GOP Governors and value their wisdom. They generate common sense conservative ideas and implement them every day. Our governors and their department heads are a vital resource for the sharing of Republican ideas.
- We will forge a stronger partnership with our Members of Congress. I will reinvigorate the Congressional Liaison Office and seek regular meetings with our leaders in Congress and be a voice for our party with those leaders. My goal will be to provide Congressional leaders with input from the RNC and for the RNC, and its members, to also be a useful ally to their efforts in Congress.
- Ideas from Young People – We will seek input and ideas specifically from College Republicans, Young Republicans, and other younger groups and leaders to help ensure we are not forfeiting a generation of voters.
- We will leave no stone unturned when it comes to forging effective ideas to better articulate our positions on all issues. Taxes and spending, crime and national security, and a myriad of social issues have formed what has been referred to as the three-legged stool of the GOP issues coalition. We must regain our footing on these issues, but also better communicate ideas on such issues such as the energy and the environment, health care, and education.
- We will build Conservative partnership with groups like Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions and Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute, among others, to provide ongoing training and workshops for our RNC members.
- We will create an online “idea factory” for individuals to share ideas with the RNC and will work to cull the best ideas and share with state GOP leadership and Congressional leadership.
4. Please outline your goals for internal reform and/or restructuring of the RNC.
RNC members are the Board of Directors and the Chairman is elected as their CEO to implement the objectives and policies set by the board. As Chairman, I will work for the membership. I will constantly look to RNC members for input and guidance. These are the leaders I will depend on when working with their state parties to help carry out the RNC’s objectives and policies within their states. I will:
- Work with the entire membership from each state. Having been a state chairman, I fully appreciate the vital role of chairs within their states and within the RNC and will work with members to enhance the relationship between the RNC and state chairs.
- Involve national committee women and men to a much greater degree than I have witnessed during my tenure as an RNC member. I believe there is underutilization of the experience, skills, passion and commitment of our committeewomen and committeemen.
- Travel to and conduct Listen & Learn sessions with members, party leadership, and elected leadership in every state and territory during the first 6 months after I am elected Chairman.
- Conduct monthly, regional on-line/video conferences with RNC members to receive input and advice, and also to make members better aware of ongoing activities at the RNC
- Make our regular meetings more interactive and productive.Devote training and resources to assist members, not just state parties, to do their jobs better. This will include training on use of modern communication technology and provide all RNC members with a Blackberry or similar smartphone in order to be connected to each other and to their constituencies.
5. Please explain your vision for expanding the GOP’s use of technology in the future and, in light of that, explain your preferred structure for the online apparatus of the RNC.
I strongly endorse the 10-point plan developed by Republican activists at www.rebuildtheparty.com. In particular, I agree that “winning the technology war with the Democrats must be the RNC’s number one priority over the next four years.” We can have great ideas and show our commitment to inclusion, but without a state-of-the-art technology platform to communicate, organize and fundraise, we can’t get the job done. While the 10-point plan is a good start, I recognize that it’s not entirely inclusive of all of the ideas the RNC should be working to implement, test, and if proven effective, executing to state and local parties.
From recruiting an online army of 5 million online Republican activists to opening up our technology ecosystem so that entrepreneurs can compete and promote new tools, the Rebuild the Party plan is a blueprint for a complete transformation of how our Party operates – building from the grassroots up, not from Washington on down. This plan includes a commitment from the RNC to train 25,000 dedicated Republican activists over the next four years and to help recruit and support candidates not just for 435 Congressional seats but for State Legislatures and local offices, creating a great “farm team” for the next generation of Republican leaders. Most importantly, the plan calls for reorganization of the RNC based on the principle that an e-campaign division is not enough; innovation and the Internet must “pervade everything the committee does.”
6. Please explain what steps and resources you would use to rebuild, reform, or otherwise repair state Republican parties that need restoration and/or strengthening.
If Republicans want to win again, we must embark on a 50 State Strategy. In 2005, Howard Dean proposed a 50 State Strategy for Democrats and the pundits scoffed at the idea Democrats could win in places like North Carolina and Indiana. No one is laughing now. A strong national party begins with strong state parties. This is vital. I will work with every state party organization to assess their needs for having a stronger party presence in their state. We will help them evaluate their needs and then assist them in putting together a plan to fund those efforts. We simply cannot be a strong party nationally when many of our state parties don’t have the tools they need.
7. Please explain what criteria you would use to vet and recruit winnable candidates.
We will work with state parties to recruit, train, and assist candidates at every level. Recruitment must not simply be a ‘want ad’ for Republican candidates. We must seek strong, articulate candidates to carry our message at every level and help to prepare them for future leadership. We must focus on building Republican strength by electing GOP candidates to city councils, township offices and school boards. Electing Republican governors in so-called “Blue” states is a great thing, but establishing a sustained record of Republican success in a state requires us to build a foundation of Republican leadership at the local level. Our candidates, and our ideas, will take root and grow. We will avoid a Washington-centric one-size fits-all approach and work with each state party, RNC member, and elected leaders to craft a plan that makes sense in their state. We must recognize the changing ethnic dynamics of our country and promote real and meaningful outreach to voters of all races and ethnicities. These communities are full of individuals who want nothing more than the opportunity to pursue the American Dream and the common ground we share is obvious. I come from one such community as a Lithuanian American, and I believe that Republicans must demonstrate and promote our shared beliefs and values. We must commit our Party to opening real dialogue and building and sustaining lasting relationships. In a tribute to one of Michigan’s great Republicans, Heinz Prechter (an immigrant who invented the modern sunroof – and put them in millions of cars), we will call this program the RNC’s “American Dreamers”.
8. Please explain how you would recruit effective candidates for the 2010 United States Senate races and how you would help those candidates.
I would work with the state party leadership and seek their input on identifying strong candidates to communicate the core principles of our party and build a winning coalition in his/her state. I would also work with the NRSC to identify our best opportunities and identify ways that we can strengthen the eventual nominee. I would not necessarily discourage primary competition. I believe, and President Obama’s campaign has demonstrated, that primaries can be very beneficial in preparing a candidate and a campaign for difficult challenges in a fall campaign. If a candidate can articulate the party’s ideals and energize the base in the primary – they will be a stronger general election candidate.
9. Please explain why the Republican Party should remain a pro-life party.
The Republican Party has consistently voted to protect life as part of our platform. I support that position, and believe it’s a fundamental right guaranteed in our nation’s founding document: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I believe that life begins at conception and we must be committed to ensure the “right to life” for all Americans – born and unborn. That said, we must be vigilant with regard to our party’s tone on this issue. I fervently believe that this debate will not be won in our legislatures or our courts, but in the hearts and minds of the American people. And only a voice of compassion can win over those hearts and minds. Those confronted with unexpected pregnancy, debilitating disease or other issues that intersect with this debate are feeling desperate, and so emotions run high on this important issue. We must tone down the rhetoric, allow ourselves to see the world through the eyes of others, and hopefully take steps in the short term to reduce abortion, fund medical research that does not depend on embryonic stem cell and ease the despair of those who think assisted suicide is their only option. With patience and compassion, I do believe that we will win the debate on protecting life.
10. Please explain what benchmarks you think would be fair to measure an RNC Chairman to determine if that Chairman has succeeded or failed in his task.
The benchmarks vary from cycle to cycle. But I believe that it is the party leader’s responsibility to build an organization and infrastructure that are strong, vibrant and energetic, prepared to be pressed into service by candidates at the appropriate time. The party can take the ball down the field, but only the candidates can get us over the goal line. This means that we need strong state and local parties that have the tools, resources and training necessary to get the job done. We need a leader that communicates with the team from the Republican Women’s Federation, to the Teenage Republicans and spends time motivating and encouraging their involvement. We also need a leader that is breaking new ground and opening doors into new regions, coalition groups and ethnic groups to help draw new energy to our party. We need to have a Get Out The Vote operation that is second to none – which means we must begin building and planning today. And finally, we must have a vibrant, aggressive fundraising program. During my time as Michigan Chairman, we raised nearly $30 million , making our party’s fundraising effort one of the most successful in the country.