There is, in alphabetical order, Saul Anuzis, a tech-enthusiast who never fails to return a phone call or email, the reliably-conservative Ken Blackwell, Katon “the Southern One” Dawson, incumbent Chairman Robert “Mike” Duncan, election expert Chip Saltsman and the charismatic Michael Steele.
Blackwell, however, expanded credentials beyond the conservative endorsements he’s gained in a conversation with some writers in a private suite at the Capital Hill Hyatt Tuesday. What many race-watchers gloss over he argued,is his extensive resume and the persuasiveness of the “shareholder’s revolt” he’s proposed leading among RNC members.
“This is not a corporation, this is a federation I would be running,” Blackwell said, criticizing the current structure of the RNC. “It doesn’t further the notion of groupthink.”
If elected RNC Chairman Blackwell’s mission would be to change the culture of the RNC, which he thinks has become too dependent on Washington connections cultivated with the soon-to-be nonexistent Bush Administration. To help make the break, he’s pitched RNC members on a new revenue sharing program that would kick-back ten percent of net fundraising proceeds to state parties.
“The whole fundraising apparatus is so inside-the-Beltway oriented that I have seen a true responsiveness to my revenue sharing program,” Blackwell said, “No longer are we going to send a staffer to state and then act as if they were my Whip.”
Blackwell is also a strong advocate for opening up the RNC’s “voter vault” database to members, which helps satisfy the outside pressure for all RNC candidates to become more tech-friendly without riling older RNC members who are turned off by complex tech talk.
“Under the present system with the voter vault there are states who will tell you it’s almost inaccessible to them and didn’t help them accomplish their goals,” he lamented. “Through an open-source system you get the buy-in to technology, but you get the human commitment necessary to drive things.”
He’s laid all his ideas in a 38-page “Conservative Resurgance Plan” that also hits on themes of financial transparency and greater coordination with state-based think tanks, as opposed to Chairman Duncan’s new proposal to create a new, DC-based RNC think tank center.
But what sets Blackwell most apart from the crowd is indeed, what he is most well-known for: being a conservative’s conservative.
He spoke frankly about his desire to steer the RNC in a conservative direction, even amid an environment when many politicos say the organization needs to become more moderate in order to compete in future elections.
“We want to know that folks are not going out and embracing candidates who only believe in 20 percent of our platform,” he said adding, however that he recognized “the political realities in Rhode Island are different than Mississippi."
He said the GOP platform is “just a collection of papers if people are not living it.” When asked how he might influence candidates to embracing the full platform he referred to Rule 11 of the party’s rules which prohibits the RNC from contributing money to any candidate who is not formally nominated by the party.
“I might make that a little easier to invoke,” he said.