This morning a group of right-of-center journalists met with Saul Anuzis during a ATR/AmSpec Newsmaker Breakfast. I'll post the audio shortly, but I wanted to make the point that Saul Anuzis's greatest strength is his availability. When I wrote my article on him earlier, I called him on his cell phone pretty frequently (and annoyingly). That comfort with the masses should inform the rest of the RNC candidates. Although David All (a tech consultant and blogger who openly [admirably so] supports Anuzis) was in the room, there was never an impression that Anuzis was being handled. He was handling himself.
Anuzis asserted that his candidacy was really based on his belief in the American dream, coming from a Lithuanian immigrant family. He pointed out that Republican had forgotten how to make their case effectively.
The opening questions focused on platform and policy. David Weigel (now a regular contributor to AmSpecBlog) asked whether social wedge issues have really been beneficial to the Michigan GOP, considering the bad last two cycles. Anuzis responded that it really came down to tone. Al Regnery noted that Reagan picked up votes where Goldwater didn't thanks to a change in tone.
Matt Lewis (who follows up here) asked Anuzis whether there was merit to the claims that his technological affinities were really just self-promotional. Anuzis responded that it was a pro-Mike Duncan blog that had made the claim, and that he felt that technology works best when it's personal. (On Twitter, @AmSpec dissents.)
I asked him how he felt the lack of electoral success in Michigan might hurt his chances for GOP chair. His response was savvy, and took a dig at Katon Dawson, Anuzis's competitor for the seat and currently the South Carolina chair. He said that if electoral success was the measure by which an RNC chair was selected, then of course the only guy who could get it would be from South Carolina. But, he noted, it would probably be a whole lot easier for him to win elections. But he felt that his experience getting into fights would be valuable. Working in a blue state, he feels, gives him credibility.
That may be so. There's the matter, however, of a lack of any major electoral success. It's one thing if he managed to pull off some upsets -- that would certainly show a fighter's ability under duress. But Tim Walberg, a Michigan Congressman who won his nomination via a primary challenge assisted by Club for Growth, lost in a district that should have gone his way.
Anuzis pins this and other losses on McCain's pull-out. There is a visible impact on the polling before and after McCain (clumsily) announced his decision to pull out of Michigan. But even before then, the GOP candidates weren't exactly cruising to victory.
This criticism isn't exclusive to Anuzis. None of the announced candidates really have a record of turning back the tide. Many of them have a bit of a record of losing (Ken Blackwell, Mike Duncan, Michael Steele). Or otherwise running state machines that face few threats (Katon Dawson). The one thing Anuzis has over and above the others, however, is accessibility. He did do a Newsmaker Breakfast. His competitors should follow suit.
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