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Republicans need to get back to business

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

There are now nine capable candidates vying for the chairman's job at the Republican National Committee. The day of reckoning will be Jan. 29, when 168 committee members from around the country will vote their preference.

The stakes are high this time around. It's different when you are looking for a caretaker - someone to keep a good thing going - as opposed to a turnaround specialist - someone to transform a loser into a winner.

Clearly after consecutive electoral shellackings led to Democratic takeovers in both houses of Congress and the White House, and significant drop-off in the number of self-identified Republican voters nationwide, it is the latter type of executive that the RNC needs. What kind of leadership talent should the RNC seek?

Republicans think of themselves as the party sympathetic to free enterprise. But the party has gotten off track applying sound business principles to its own operation.

The three most important management questions, according to famed management guru Peter Drucker, are: What is our business? Who is the customer? What does the customer consider value?

What is the business of the RNC? Some might say it is to get Republicans elected. I'd say that's inadequate. Clever marketing techniques can move product in the short run. But if customers are not happy, they don't come back.

If the party does not have a clear agenda, and is not making a positive sale based on that agenda, it's a sign of weakness. Republican national campaigns of recent years that have been defined by Willie Horton and Swift Boats may have defeated the other side. But they brought candidates into office with no clear mandate and eroded party definition and discipline.

The RNC business model must be based on positive marketing of its platform of traditional values, limited government, free enterprise and strong national defense. Candidates must be groomed who genuinely believe that it's this agenda - all of it - that keeps out country great and candidates who don't shouldn't be nominated.

Who is the customer? The RNC must genuinely view the full spectrum of the American electorate as its target market. What business can possibly grow by only focusing on customers who have already bought its product? Only going after low-hanging fruit is not a business plan that any venture capitalist would finance.

Republicans must get their message to the many diverse communities that make up our great country that they have ignored. Yes, I am certainly talking about black and Latino communities.

Consider the remarkable election that just occurred in New Orleans, where a young Vietnamese American political novice, Anh Cao, unseated William Jefferson, a Democratic Congressional black caucus member for almost 20 years. The RNC showed little interest in a race that conventional wisdom suggested had little prospect for a Republican victory. Cao won a surprise victory on a shoestring budget.

I've seen similar opportunities in the last two years, where seats opened up in California and Ohio as result of deaths of two black caucus members. There were clear opportunities to run conservatives that the RNC ignored because of conventional thinking.

What does the customer consider value? Customers buy products they believe will make them better off. Although some voters are motivated by ideology, most are seeking a secure, comfortable and safe life.

Voters from every walk of American life must hear from Republicans, practically, how more freedom and less government will deliver better education, health care, jobs and security. And why the preservation of the integrity of traditional family life provides a critical foundation for our country.

Some suggest that reaching out to new communities means changing the party's agenda. What successful company builds market share by destroying its product? No, they maintain product integrity and use more aggressive and imaginative targeted marketing.

The Republican Party clearly needs change. The RNC needs a chairman that can lead it into a new era.

Someone who understands that the new beginning must start with sound business principles.

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