Matt Lewis

I've heard from several reliable sources today that Michael Steele's RNC Chairman race is being managed by Blaise Hazelwood

In 2004, Hazelwood received a lot of praise for her success as political director of the RNC.  She then moved over to become Elizabeth Dole's right-hand-woman, serving as campaign and media director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), during Dole's unsuccessful tenure. 

As one Republican Strategist (who previously held a senior position at one of the Republican party committees) said of Hazelwood's management of Steele:  "She lost a ten seat majority.  Is that the crowd we need?" 

Clearly, every candidate for the RNC Chairmanship has, by this point in their career, surrounded themselves with a political consultant or two.  What makes Steele unique, however, is that his manager is a consummate DC political "insider" who has been helping make decisions regarding the direction of the GOP -- either as a national consultant or as a GOP staffer -- for several years now.

So why should this matter?

First, Steele has positioned himself as an outsider who wants to shake things up at the RNC.  However, the fact that his campaign is being run by the same people who have been running things for years now, seems to undermine his "change"/reform message (this is sort of like Barack Obama selling "change" and then hiring Rahm Emanuel -- a consummate insider)....

The truth is that the people who surround a chairman -- who "run" the campaigns -- are arguably as important as the chairman, himself (once he is elected). 

It's not uncommon for the campaign manager to go on to "run" the RNC, too -- either officially -- or unofficially.  For example, Scott Reed ran Haley Barbour's campaign, and became chief of staff as soon as Barbour was elected in 1993. 

So a new chairman who surrounds himself with staffers and consultants who are invested in the conventional wisdom of the past -- will likely fail to revolutionize anything.

Aside from impacting whether or not the GOP wins or loses elections, the chief of staff often makes the day-to-day decisions, including where to spend money (and which consultants to hire).

... Which brings us to the reason staffers and consultants encourage their candidates to seek these positions.  As you might have imagined, landing a contract with the RNC or one of the committees is an extremely lucrative opportunity, and is usually a way to reward political friends.  For example, the RNC will hire media operatives to run their Independent Expenditure (IE) campaigns, as well as voter mail firms, etc.  Because they may spend millions and millions of dollars, firms stand to profit a great deal if "their" candidate (the candidate they are allied with) becomes chairman of the RNC -- or one of the Committees. 

In short, the economy may be in trouble these days, but for political consultants, a campaign can be a major "economic development" opportunity.

This is not to suggest that Steele's team is any more interested in reaping the benefits than anyone else.  But Steele has clearly "consultanted-up" more than most.  In addition to Hazelwood, I'm told that Curt Anderson (Hazelwood's former boss at the RNC) is also on board.  He is partners at a firm called OnMessage, which ran Steele's clever ads for his failed 2006 senate campaign in Maryland.  Steele's blogger outreach is also being conducted by former McCain blogger-outreach guru Patrick Hynes.

Again, the interesting thing here is not that Steele has acquired consultants, but that -- in a year when Republicans are hungry for new solutions -- Steele has brought on many of the same people who have been pulling the strings nationally these last two unsuccessful campaign cycles.  This, of course, may be a product of his living in Maryland, which is close to DC...

Note:  Now that Ken Blackwell is rumored to be entering the race, I should probably remind everyone that he is a contributing editor at  In addition, he serves as Chairman of CCM with former Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- also a Townhall blogger.  Additionally, a family member of mine has previously served as a consultant to Blackwell, though that is no longer the case.  Of course, I have also served on campaigns where a family member of Hazelwood was the consultant....

Matt Lewis

Matt Lewis is conservative writer and blogger based in Alexandria, VA.

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