Good morning! I’m Ron Nehring, Chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, and I’m looking forward to guest hosting the Café San Diego blog here today on voiceofsandiego.org.
You might expect my commentary and postings today to be dripping with vitriolic partisan rhetoric and taking gratuitous shots at liberals and Democrats. Not today.
Instead, my goal is to give you some insider’s perspective on what’s happening in politics and government, and introduce you to resources and information so you can draw your own conclusions. By checking in throughout the day, I hope you’ll gain insight on the current political dynamic and the forces behind it.
One more thing: since life is not just about politics (thankfully), I reserve the right to periodically comment on issues completely unrelated to politics throughout the day as well.
So, let’s get started!
As the leader of a political party with an election coming up, a great deal of attention is paid to the daily evolution of a wide range of campaigns, and the execution of campaign programs aimed at winning as many elections as possible for our candidates on Nov. 7.
Interestingly, Election Day itself holds decreasing significance, since it’s no longer the day we vote, but rather it now constitutes the end of the voting process and the beginning of the counting process: the Registrar of Voters began sending out ballots to absentee voters this week, marking the beginning of actually four weeks of voting for the electorate. Over 40 percent of voters are expected to cast ballots by mail in this election, meaning voting now takes place over four weeks, not just one day.
Here in San Diego County, the Republican Party is supporting 281 candidates for office, from Governor Schwarzenegger at the top of the ticket all the way down to candidates for school boards and city councils. As a party leader, the responsibility is not just to the top of the ticket, but to every candidate supported by the party. You can see the complete list of candidates endorsed by the Republican Party here.
Out of curiosity I took a look at the list of candidates endorsed by Democrats in San Diego County – I counted 49 on their list, in contrast to the 281 on ours. I also found another interesting difference: the Republican Party in San Diego County is supporting 68 women candidates, the Democrats are supporting 22.
Much of the current political discussion is over the Congressional elections. Enough seats are in play that control of Congress could go to either party.
Commentators on your talking-heads news programs often make the mistake of painting with an overly broad brush, ascribing a single unified strategy to “the Republicans” and “the Democrats.” That might be true in Europe, where political parties are much stronger, but not so in the United States. Congressional candidates have total control over their individual campaigns. While they may take some degree of guidance from their national party leaders, at the end of the day, the candidate, not the party, decides on the strategies and tactics of the campaign in each district.
This doesn’t mean there is no role for the national party committees. Yet even there, three committees are involved for each party, not just one. On the Republican side the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee provide guidance and resources to candidates in targeted districts. Candidates in safe or hopeless districts tend to receive less attention from the national committees – a rational allocation of resources to those seats which are in play.
The Republican National Committee is led by a skilled Republican strategist: Ken Mehlman. Often national party committees are led by some big name, like a former senator or some other easily recognizable figure who can serve as a good spokesman on the Sunday morning talk shows. What makes Ken Mehlman so widely respected within the party is that he is no figure head – he is an exceedingly sharp political strategist and tactician, a hands-on party leader no doubt currently focused on using many of the same sophisticated and effective campaign strategies and tactics that successfully delivered the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections for President Bush.
For a snapshot on how several high profile congressional races are going, visit RealClearPolitics, an excellent website that compiles and averages current polling data for a number of key races. When you’re done there, catch up on the other major political headlines at the Drudge Report, Rough and Tumble, FlashReport, and Political Vanguard.