The Spectacle Blog

Scapegoating Mike Duncan

By on 12.23.08 | 1:05PM

Michael Patrick Leahy really, really doesn't like RNC Chairman Mike Duncan. His post calling for Duncan to drop out of the Chairmanship race has kicked up some controversy, mainly over whether his namecheck of the Top Conservatives On Twitter project is inappropriate, but it's worth noting that, quite apart from that tempest in a #TCOT (thanks, Jim), Leahy's argument against Duncan is pretty silly. Basically, citing the 2008 election results, Leahy concludes that Duncan's leadership has been "disastrously inept."

I really wonder what Leahy thinks that a different RNC leader would have done to change the election results. The rap on Duncan is that he's too low-key, doesn't do enough media, and isn't embracing cutting edge technology. But it's not as if he's ceded ground to his DNC counterpart on the media front; there was a time when Howard Dean, because he's so unpopular, was practically in hiding. Does anyone really think that the GOP would have done better at the polls if only they had a slicker leader to go on the Sunday morning shows -- or, even more preposterously, if they had a bigger footprint on Twitter and Facebook? (The RNC's behind-the-scenes blogger outreach operation was and is very good, by the way, and the RNC does have a Twitter feed even if Duncan's campaign for re-election as chairman doesn't.)

The one big decision the party chairmen had to make this year was how to set the rules for the primary schedule. Duncan handled that issue a whole lot better than Dean did. It didn't particularly matter; the McCain campaign failed to capitalize on the headstart they had while the Democrats got locked in an endless primary season. Which underscores the point that there's only so much a party chairman can do to win elections.

If you think the RNC could be doing a better job of embracing Web 2.0, fine. If you think the RNC needs a more visible chairman, fine. (The idea that occasionally gets bandied about of splitting the chairmanship into a National Chairman to manage the party day-to-day and a General Chairman to be the party's public face makes a certain amount of sense to me.) But Leahy's vehement insistence that Duncan shares a large amount of the blame for the GOP's electoral fortunes -- which were well on their way south before he became chairman in 2007 -- is really unfair.

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