Memo to Chairman Priebus

Hugh Hewitt

3/24/2011 11:14:08 AM - Hugh Hewitt

Congratulations on a great start to your term as chair of the Republican National Committee. Past supporters are returning again to GOP.com with confidence that their contributions will be well-managed and that the RNC will be about the business of building the party at every level.

Two pressing issues need attention from you, however, and soon.

First, another Beltway-Manhattan media elite attempt to control the GOP nomination process was announced today. ABC News declared that it would have a decisive role in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses by staging a debate moderated by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos on the weekend of December 10, a debate co-sponsored by the Iowa Republican Party. (The details are here.)

As MSMers go, Sawyer and Stephanopoulos are among the best, but they are still of and from the media culture that simply does not understand the GOP primary electorate, and their questions will inevitably be shaped by their experiences in the network newsrooms which tilt far to the left. Stephanopoulos is of course a former Democratic Party operative and senior Clinton advisor who remains in very close contact with his Democratic operative pals, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and CNN's Paul Begala.

Does anyone really believe that these broadcasters or any of the other MSM anchors are genuinely in touch with the GOP primary electorate?

Unlike the proposed NBC-Politico debate in May, at least this new proposal isn't tainted by the hard-left edge of Mathews et al, and it has some claim to legitimacy because of its sponsorship by the Iowa Republican party, but what was the Iowa GOP thinking? And what is the RNC's role in this? The Iowa GOP certainly ought to be running a debate, but why not with center-right journalists who enjoy credibility with their party members? Building up the credibility and visibility of the Obama-loving MSM is not the job of the national or state parties. These are not our friends. They never have been and they never will be. The MSM is very left wing, and there isn't even a serious debate about this. So why is the GOP allowing the left wing MSM to structure its nominating calendar?

Whomever emerges as the GOP nominee will have to have the skills sets necessary to manage an overwhelmingly pro-Obama MSM, so the debate issue isn't about the candidates. It is about honoring the GOP primary electorate that deserves a few debates that push the candidates on the issues that matter to GOP voters, not the hot buttons for a wealthy, powerful media elite.

The second issue is deeper and more profound. We can expect Team Obama to employ in 2012 the Chicago rules for which the president and his inner circle are famous. And that means if they can influence the GOP nominating process to produce a weaker nominee, they will. If Iowa, New Hampshire and the rest of the early primaries can be entered by Democratic activists, they will be, and those activists won't be there to help nominate the strongest GOP nominee.

Rush Limbaugh had fun with Operation Chaos in 2008, and proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that "strategic voting" and party-shifting can be encouraged and in significant numbers. The continuing advance of new media and social networks and the nature of the organizations on the left almost guarantee that left-wing voters will participate in the GOP caucuses and primaries with an intent of punishing the strongest candidates and assisting the weakest.

It may be beyond the national party's ability to influence these state voting rules, but it certainly within your ability to push for transparency about who is participating and under what rules sets. The party needs to be about educating the country about who gets to vote in which states, and when and how people qualify to vote in those early contests. "Hang a lantern on your problem" is an old saying in politics, and the RNC should be out lighting the lamps now, just as it should be assembling a series of RNC-sponsored debates that will not replace the MSM left-fests but which would at least give conservative voters a much better chance of hearing their questions asked.