Morton Blackwell's Letter to RNC Chair Candidates

Posted: Dec 06, 2008 8:48 PM
Back in November, conservative icon -- and RNC Member -- Morton Blackwell wrote a very good and detailed letter (and questionnaire) to candidates running for RNC Chair.  I think many of his points (particularly his concern over consultants to the RNC) are instructive -- and should guide conservatives as we decide whom to support:
I have mailed the below letter and list of questions to
the following eight candidates and potential candidates
for Chairman of the Republican National Committee: 
Saul Anuzis of Michigan, Tina Benkiser of Texas, Katon
Dawson of South Carolina, Mike Duncan of Kentucky, Jim
Greer of Florida, Chip Saltsman of Tennessee, Michael
Steele of Maryland, and John Sununu of New Hampshire. 
     Morton Blackwell
                         November 24, 2008
Dear xxxx,
 I've served on the RNC since 1988, so a lot of
people have contacted me to ask whom I shall support as
we hold the election of RNC chairman at our Winter
 Among those asking me are several fellow RNC
 My answer is that I don't know yet. [# More #]
 About a week ago, I attended a meeting of 40
prominent conservatives.  Many of them are heads of
large conservative organizations who generally support
Republican candidates.  Others are Republican Party
 I told them that most of those whose names are in
consideration for RNC chairman are long-standing
friends of mine, and that this decision is so important
that I want to know a lot more about what each
candidate would do if elected.
 They asked me to compile a list of relevant
questions and to ask the candidates and prospective
candidates to answer them.  I agreed to do that.  I
believe that most of them will join to throw their
support behind the single candidate whose answers they
like best.
 Rarely do RNC meetings make an un-scripted
decision, but this is a real and important one.

 So I have prepared a set of questions, all of
interest to me and to many of those who have asked for
my opinion.
 Many of these questions, which I've rather
arbitrarily split into three groups, have never been
asked before, but all of them should be asked now --
and answered.
 Please provide your answers on the sheets
provided.  Feel free to use extra sheets as necessary.
 Then please return your answers to me in the envelope
provided by December 10.
     Morton C. Blackwell
     Virginia Republican
     National Committeeman
Questions for Candidates and Potential Candidates for Chairman of
the Republican National Committee
from Morton C. Blackwell, 3128 North 17th Street, Arlington, VA
 1.Democrats beat Republicans badly on the ground in 2008 by
pouring vast amounts of time, talent, and money into an
unprecedented, high-tech effort to identify and register
supporters, communicate to those supporters, and get them to
As RNC chairman, what would you do to make sure that Democrats do
not have a comparable ground-game advantage in 2010?  
 2.When Democrats hold the White House, the RNC chairman has a
greatly increased role in advocating what the Republican
Party stands for.
Many conservatives are intensely unhappy with the failure of
party leaders to advance outspokenly the conservative
principles of limited government, free enterprise,
traditional values, and strong national defense.
Social conservatives, especially, have been heard to say they are
treated by Republican leaders as Democrats treated American
blacks.  That is, the party wants and gets all our votes but
then pays little or no attention to us. 
Given the election results of 2008, conservatives might ask
whether or not that means that next time we get to elect one
of us as President of the United States.
No issue politically important to major elements of the
Democrats' coalition is absent from the Democrats'
As RNC chairman, what would you do to make sure that the RNC, in
a balanced way, speaks out for the social issues so
important to a huge number of potential Republican voters
and so clearly stated in the democratically written and
unanimously adopted 2008 National Republican Platform?
 3.During a Republican presidency, the RNC is in many ways an
appendage of the White House.  Democrats now control the
elected branches of our federal government. 
As RNC chairman, would you speak out forcefully against White
House and congressional plans to increase government
spending and regulations?
 4.Have you read the 2008 Republican National Platform?  Do you
agree with it?
 5.In particular, do you agree with and fully support the 2008
pro-life plank, which is essentially the same language as
was in the Platforms of 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and
 6.The feminists' attack on marriage was one major reason why
unmarried women voted for Sen. Obama over Sen. McCain by a
staggering 70% to 29%.  
Do you agree that Republicans must support marriage and cut off
the many incentives to divorce and unmarried motherhood that
now exist in federal law and spending?
 7.The New York Times headlined "Goodbye Reagan Democrats."  Jobs are a major issue for Reagan Democrats, and many jobs are
rapidly disappearing across America right now.
What should Republicans do to convince those who have lost their
jobs or fear they may lose their jobs that Republican
policies will result in more jobs than Democrat policies?
 8.The liberal media are trying to sell two contradictory
messages about the 2008 elections.
First, that 52% of the popular vote is an overwhelming mandate
for Barak Obama to move America massively to the left.
Second, that the 52% of the vote cast in California for
Proposition 8, the Marriage Amendment, was such a squeaker
that the victory has no long-term significance.
In fact, exit polls on November 4 showed that hispanics and
blacks in California voted overwhelmingly for Proposition 8.
This indicates an opening for the Republican Party, which can
attract large numbers of currently Democratic-leaning
minorities on social issues which already are high
priorities for most people who usually vote Republican.
As RNC chairman, what would you do to take advantage of this
opening to broaden the base of the Republican Party?
 9.On which issues do you believe the Republican Party should be most attractive to the growing number of Americans of Asian
10.It appears that left-wing organizations, Democratic Party
organizations, and Democrat candidates worked closely
together to produce their victories in 2008.
As RNC chairman, what would you do to work more closely with the
many, large, effective conservative organizations which
could work more effectively with Republicans in the future?
11.Do you think it is possible to strengthen the Republican
coalition we have while expanding it?  If so, what specific
steps should Republicans take to achieve simultaneously both
of these desirable goals?
12.Unless Republicans can match the enormously increased
fundraising of the Democrats and their allied left-wing
organizations, it's difficult to see how we can begin again
to win most elections.
As RNC chairman, what would you do to increase dramatically the
fundraising capability of the Republican Party and the
conservative organizations generally allied with it?
13.We can expect the Obama Administration and the Democrat-
controlled Congress to use their power to pour taxpayer
funds into the coffers of left-wing groups which support
them politically and to try to use government power to
weaken or cripple conservative groups which tend to support
As RNC chairman, would you be a leader against government funding
of politically active groups and a leader in defense of
legitimate conservative groups targeted for attack by
President Obama and his allies who control the Congress?
14.Exit polls show that students and other young voters voted
about two to one for Barak Obama.  In part this was because
leftist groups and Democrats spent huge sums of money
identifying and organizing college students in 2008.
Many studies have shown that, when young people start off in
politics with a political party, they tend to favor that
party for the rest of their lives.
Years ago, for legal reasons, the RNC stopped providing direct
financial assistance to the College Republicans, and very
few Republican campaigns invest in mass-based youth efforts.
Yet decades of experience show that large numbers of college students can be identified, organized, and activated in
Republican campaigns where someone talented and skilled is
provided the resources to do so.
As RNC chairman, what would you do to make sure College
Republican field work is generously funded and to make sure
that future Republican campaigns devote the time, talent,
and money necessary to recruit large numbers of college
students into Republican activity?
15.In addition to vigorously expanding the Republican presence on
college campuses, what must be done to give the Republican
Party credibility with young people as a desirable
alternative to Obama and the Democratic Congress?  How would
you build us as a party to which young people can relate
16.Although restored fidelity to old messages will certainly be
required to grow the Republican Party again, new messages
are also essential.  What new messages would you communicate
as RNC chairman?
17.New faces will be an important factor if Republicans are to
become the majority party again.
Should the recruitment of U.S. House and Senate candidates be
entirely in the hands of the National Republican
Congressional Committee and the National Republican
Senatorial Committee?  What should be the role of the RNC in
recruitment of candidates at the congressional, state, and
local levels?  And how much money should the RNC invest in
the next two years in candidate recruitment?
18.No candidate is ever perfect, but what five or six factors do
you think are most important in evaluating a potential
Republican candidate?
19.Meetings of the RNC are usually scripted so that virtually
every word spoken is prepared in advance and every vote
unanimous.  Rarely is any serious matter put before the
committee and debated openly.
What would you do as national chairman to open up meetings of the
RNC and allow RNC members to debate meaningful issues and
actually decide some policies of the RNC?
20.There are natural conflicts of interest between consultants
and their clients.   For the RNC, what counts in the long run is the net money raised;
for a fundraising consultant firm, what counts most is the
number of prospect letters mailed.  
Fundraising firms make much more money from prospect mailings
than they do from cultivating their clients' existing
donors.   Therefore such firms don't give their highest
quality attention to cultivating the client's housefile.  
In fact, communications to RNC donors bang away at them in an
effort to squeeze every last possible dollar from them.  
What is seen is that some more money comes in.  An RNC chairman
should clearly understand that what is not seen is the large
number of RNC donors who are turned off and resolve never to
give to the RNC again.
What would you do as RNC chairman to treat RNC donors better and
not turn them away from future giving by pressuring them so
hard that they never want to give again?
21.Some political consultants deliberately warp the budgets of
campaigns to spend as much as possible on commissionable
They completely or overwhelmingly neglect non-commissionaable
campaign expenditures on such ground-game activities as
voter ID, voter registration, precinct organization,
election-day turn out, youth efforts and other non-
commissionable activity such as use of the new electronic
What would you as RNC chairman do to warn candidates and party
committees against employing such consultants?
22.Political consultants often are the only ones who make big
bucks in politics.  They can be identified in three
different categories.  
Some work only for conservative Republican candidates.  Others
work for any Republican candidate who will pay them,
regardless of that candidate's philosophy.  Others work for
any candidate who will pay them, regardless of party.
What would you do as RNC chairman to make sure that Republican
candidates would know in advance which of these three
categories a consultant fits into?
23.National Republican staff compile lists of acceptable
consultants and suppliers to recommend to candidates who seek money and other help from the RNC and other national
Republican committees.
Sometimes candidates and state parties are told that they must
hire those favored consultants, their associates, and other
specific suppliers or they will get little or no help from
the RNC.
Will the RNC under your chairmanship compile a list of favored
consultants and suppliers and pressure candidates and state
parties to hire them?
24.Local and state Republican Party leaders are often upset at
RNC fundraising letters which imply that the way to
contribute to the local or state party is to write a check
to the RNC.  
Computer insertion by direct marketing consultants of the name of
the local city or state into RNC fundraising letters in the
past often seemed deliberately intended to give donors that
This causes donors to respond to fundraising appeals by state and
local parties with irate and incorrect statements that they
recently gave to those state and local committees.
What would you do as RNC chairman to prevent the RNC from mailing
such misleading letters in the future?
25.Fundraising consultants for national Republican committees
frequently send out mass mailings which include up to 40
opinion questions.  
Opinion surveys can be useful, but in 2008 long issue surveys
didn't ask a single question about immigration or illegal
aliens.  This insulted and offended many Republicans.
As RNC chairman, would you make sure that the major issues
important to most Republicans are included in wide-ranging
surveys mailed in mass numbers by the RNC?
26.What political consultants are assisting you in your campaign
for RNC chairman?
27.Many people decide to join the Republican Party because they
believe it is the best vehicle to advance their conservative
principles.   Then they see their party leaders and party committees supporting liberal or content-free Republican incumbents for re-
Or they see their party leaders or party committees supporting
non-conservatives for nomination in open seats, giving as a
reason that a more conservative candidate "can't win."
Or in general elections they see their party leaders or party
staff disproportionately directing party resources to non-
conservative party nominees rather than to conservative
party nominees.
What would you do as RNC chairman that would assure conservatives
that such objectionable practices will not happen on your
28.The results of the 2010 elections will largely determine the
congressional and state legislative reapportionment for a
In past decades, the RNC and the National Republican
Congressional Committee have designated small working groups
to plan and coordinate Republican efforts in the run-up to
Prior to the 1990 elections, for example, such a working group
focused not just on state legislative races and
gubernatorial races.  They also developed and implemented
plans for state supreme court elections, media strategies,
legal strategies, etc.
Regarding reapportionment and redistricting, what would you do as
RNC chairman?  And how much RNC money would you allocate to
this vitally important matter?
29.Some RNC chairmen over the years have been full-time chairmen.
 Others have held the post and retained other political or
business responsibilities.
If elected, would you be a full-time RNC chairman?
30.When Democrats hold the White House, the RNC chairman must
serve often as "the face of the Republican Party."
Are you confident that you have the speaking skills and effective
presence on television to perform successfully against those
whom the Democrats would put up against you?
31.There's a consensus that the major national media were
overwhelmingly unfavorable to the Republican Party and it candidates in the recent election.  This biased coverage
helped create a bandwagon effect for Democrats.
What plans would you implement to get for Republicans a more even
break in the news media leading up to the 2010 elections?
32.Surveys showed a dramatic decline in recent years in the
number of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans. 
It has frequently been said that our party "lost its brand."
What must be done to recover the more favorable opinion people
recently had for the Republican Party?  If it's a matter of
"recovering our brand," what strategy and tactics should the
party use to re-introduce itself attractively to the
American people?
33.To become again the majority party, Republicans must identify,
recruit, and train large numbers of new activists and
As RNC chairman, what would you do to multiply our Republican
recruitment and training of new activists and leaders at the
state and local levels?
34.What are the principal assets you would bring to the
35.What are your deficiencies, and how would you organize the RNC
to make up for those deficiencies?
36.Do you think we need an institutionally strong chairman, or do
you favor a team approach at the RNC?
37.What are you personally doing now to help Saxby Chambliss win
re-election in Georgia?
     Signed:  ____________________
       Date:  ____________________