RNC Meeting Report
By Denise McNamara
Election of Senator Martinez as General Chairman
On Friday, during the General Session of the Winter Meeting of the RNC, Senator Martinez was elected as the new “General Chairman” with only a handful of the members voting “No.” All three members from Texas voted no.
The first debate concerned the creation of a new office of General Chairman. The Committeeman from North Dakota employed an independent parliamentarian who rendered an opinion which stated that a dual leadership structure was not authorized.
While I appreciated the Committeeman’s efforts, our rules do state that the RNC may elect “such other officers as the RNC shall deem necessary.” The context of that wording seems to suggest the creation of a minor office, such as historian, corresponding secretary, or a lesser office, but nothing prohibits the creation of a general chairman. Consequently, that effort was unsuccessful. Only two or three people on the RNC voted to prohibit the creation of the new position.
Although the committeeman from North Dakota had discussed making a motion for a secret ballot, no one made such a motion. The election was a voice vote. It is hard to identify who actually dissented. All three of us from Texas, the committeeman from Arizona, the committeewoman from Utah, and the committeeman from North Dakota may have been the only ones who cast a vote against Martinez. There could have been a few more. Most members, although unhappy with the choice of Senator Martinez, decided to support Senator Martinez publicly. Privately, many expressed dismay with the choice. I was very surprised that several RNC members told me that they were getting phone calls and emails and postcards asking them to vote “No,” yet they were still going to support the Senator.
The most common reason cited for supporting ill-advised decisions of the RNC leadership is that we must support the President. I, for one, would never insult the President. He has a tremendous challenge with the war in Iraq. I support him in the war. My purpose in speaking out at the RNC is to communicate to the leadership the unprecedented level of discontent that I am hearing from the voters in Texas. Morale is definitely low among our conservative base. The election of Senator Martinez does not help.
There is also an undercurrent at the RNC meetings that creates an enormous pressure on members to follow the instructions of the leadership. It is unfortunate that this atmosphere exists, but I do feel that everyone knew and understood our objections, and those of us who feel that this is a mistake were successful in making our voices heard.
Committeeman from Kentucky Mike Duncan was elected as the new day-to-day Chairman. Ohio Committeewoman Jo Ann Davidson was reelected as Co-Chairman. Committeeman from California Tim Morgan was elected as treasurer. Secretary Sara Gear Boyd, Committeewoman from Vermont, was re-elected.
Theme of the Meeting
The RNC Winter Meeting was named “Recommitting to Reform.” During the Resolutions Committee meeting on Thursday, we unanimously passed a resolution entitled, “Resolution Recognizing the Need to Recommit to Traditional Conservative Principles.” The resolution states, in part, “Whereas, Ronald Reagan reinvented the Republican Party in the 1980’s as the party that would change government, not sustain it, and Whereas the Republican class of 1994 swept to power in Congress for the first time in 40 years with a detailed list of reforms that took power away from the government and returned it to the people,” that “we should stay true to the principles of limited government, fiscal restraint, individual freedom, and a strong national defense.”
Mike Duncan, Committeeman from Kentucky since 1992, was elected as the new day-to-day Chairman of the RNC. He stated that, “We need to get back to our plans, programs, policies, and practices.” He stated that we are all disappointed by the November elections, but that his job is not to make policy or even headlines, but to win elections. He stated that Senator Martinez would be the voice of the party and its ideals. Duncan reiterated that when we are true to our principles of lower taxes individual responsibility and limited government, we win.
Outgoing Chairman Ken Mehlman stated that, “If we are hesitant or apologetic about our principles, then it won’t matter how good our ground game is, and we must be committed to conservative principles.” Mehlman’s legacy at the RNC is the 72 Hour plan, the RNC Get-Out-the-Vote program, and his use of demographics and voter profiling to identify Republican voters, which led to the successful 2004 reelection of President Bush.
Remarks by President Bush
When President Bush addresses the RNC, he is of course in front of a friendly audience. It is always amazing how comfortable and effective he is in such a setting. On Thursday afternoon we were invited to a White House reception. The President focused his remarks mainly on the war in Iraq. He was passionate in stating that we are doing the right thing by persevering in Iraq. The President communicates with Prime Minister Maliki via videoconferencing. He understands that Americans want results. He has made changes in military leadership. President Bush stressed that if we pull out of Iraq prematurely, that terrorists will have the opportunity to use the oil revenues to purchase WMDs, and the situation will get much worse. He said “woe be it” to any Democrats who try to block funding for the military. He also said that he does not want his children or grandchildren to ask why he pulled out of Iraq and have to answer that it was because of a poll. It is obvious that the threat to our country is great, and President Bush’s prosecution of the war on terror is his greatest priority.
Reflecting on the entirety of the meeting, it is apparent that the RNC leadership understands that a recommitment to conservative principles is essential to victory. However, in their opinion, immigration reform and border control does not fall under the traditional conservative principles that they are focusing on. Fiscal responsibility has been lacking, and a return to that bedrock principle is important. I believe that the GOP will face a huge challenge in 2008, and we definitely have our work cut out for us. I thank all of you who contacted me and expressed your opinion. Please do not be discouraged. Your concerns have been passed on, and you were heard. That is the most important thing that all of us can do, is to continue to make our voices heard.
One More Thing – Presidential Contenders
I was invited to only two events for Republican presidential hopefuls. Senator John McCain had a reception on Thursday night. I attended for a short time, but the Senator was not present. He had a table with his books available. It was crowded, but it was not a large venue. I understand that Senator McCain was also meeting with individual RNC members at his Senate office throughout the day Thursday. One of his primary supporters on the RNC is the Committeeman from Michigan.
Governor Mitt Romney also had a reception on Thursday evening. I attended and actually met and spoke with Romney. I asked him how he was elected in a liberal state like Massachusetts. He responded that the state was faced with a tax increase, and he ran on the promise of not raising taxes and solving the fiscal crisis. He had a larger crowd than McCain. He addressed the entire group and was introduced by the Committeewoman from South Carolina, who is a conservative. In her introduction she said that God raises up leaders for times such as this, and she believes that Governor Romney is just such a leader. Romney has the endorsement of at least 16 RNC members. The Committeemen from New Jersey and Massachusetts were also with Governor Romney during his introduction.
There was little or no activity from any of the other Republican presidential candidates.