Kevin Aylward and I were on a conference call yesterday with Mike Duncan, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. The RNC initiated a series of calls with bloggers to discuss the Iowa caucus results and other issues. Since I think the Iowa caucus is mostly irrelevant, I asked about other issues.
A tape operator error (oops) killed the recording, which I was hoping to Podcast. But here are the questions and answers as I took notes.
Why is the Republican Presidential campaign fund raising so low compared to the war chests of the Democrats?
Mike blamed it on the 2006 election dispiriting donors. The national party has raised $83m to the Democrats $51m, and has more cash on hand. Once a nominee is selected he expects the money to flow.
Will we have a brokered Republican convention?
Mike said that he expects a presumptive nominee by mid-late February. If not, he is preparing. Everyone knows the ground rules at the convention. He has 20 people now in St Paul preparing. There are platform committees, rules committees, credentials committee, and a contest committee to adjudicate disputes.
He was afraid that Hillary Clinton would get the nomination sewed up before we picked a candidate. In 1996, Bill Clinton spent money before Bob Dole got the nomination, putting the Republicans at a disadvantage. He was delighted that the Democrats have a contest on their hands.
Can we develop a more rational nomination process than what we have now. We seem to be looking on 10% of the electorate in an unrepresentative state to pick a candidate, with 10,000 media talking heads looking on and pontificating. How about regional primaries in small states several weeks apart, rotating across the country each election cycle?
Mike has been involved in campaigns from the 1970’s. The origins of the Republican Party were in 1856, when we took our rules from the Whigs. We had national committee men, then women. We resisted quotas on the numbers of delegates from identity groups like the Democratics have. The process has shifted from
party boss decision making to primary and caucus. He talked about the potential for a National primary, but that would not be constitutional nor politically practical. Parties set rules, not the federal government. And each state makes their own rules for sending delegates. It is a bottom up process with different ways to get there. The Democrats use a more top down process. They can change rules during a campaign, we are set for 4 years.
Strategically, Democrats want to move things up when they are out of office. This has the potential to make the President a lame duck.
There are proposals in Congress to mandate a new process, but the Supreme court has said that parties make their own rules. The constitution mandates freedom of association, and federal fixes are unconstitutional. He is open to talking about 2012 rules after the 2008 election, in a January meeting, and an April rules committee recommendation. No one understands the effect of the changes recently made.
How would the convention handle the five states whose delegates were cut by 50% for moving their primaries up?
Mike said that some states would send full delegation. This would have to be adjudicated through the contest committee. There is a process to deal with it. The presumptive nominee may want to seat them, and we may accept them, or we may not. For example, Florida has had their delegation reduced by half. Giuliani may win that primary and may want to fight to seat the other half. But that is a hypothetical. In 1952 there was a dispute about delegates that was settled in the credentials committee.
Now that Iraq has faded from the media with the success of the surge, how would that effect the election?
Mike said it would be to our advantage. There are more self described Republicans now than ever before, and the Democratic congressional approval ratings are lower than they have ever been. He was optimistic about the Republican chances in November.