Looking at the different ballots, and how the voters moved, it was clear that “establishment conservatism” as espoused by Blackwell was going nowhere. This doesn’t indicate an ideological failing — it’s not that people didn’t agree with Blackwell’s views — but instead, they likely believed more that others in the race would be able to organize. Blackwell had also joined the race late, belying a late enthusiasm.He was hoping to ride the “change” wave, but didn’t do so. But “change” was simply anti-establishment. In other words, the conservative hope was still packed inside the overall platform of changing the guard.
Let’s look at how the ballots moved.
Already there’s support for Steele — strong support for Steele, as a “change candidate.” From this early on, it must have been a surprise to see Steele do so well. It’s unclear to what extent members identified Steele as being the candidate for moderates, however — Duncan himself has been accused of the same. Blackwell started at the bottom, and likely looked to surge later. Dawson, who was likely to receive support from Duncan’s people
DUNCAN: 48 (-4 from first ballot)
BLACKWELL: 19 (-1)
Duncan lost four votes, and Blackwell lost one. Steele, Dawson and Anuzis all gain. Steele and Anuzis are also both considered “change” candidates. Whatever the heck that means.
STEELE:51 (+3 from second ballot)
DUNCAN: 44 (-4)
ANUZIS:24 (No Change)
BLACKWELL: 15 (-4)
Steele finally beats down Duncan. Dawson picks up the rest of the votes. Blackwell drops by a quarter of his own votes.
DAWSON: 62 (+28)
STEELE: 60 (+9)
ANUZIS: 31 (+7)
BLACKWELL: 15 (No Change)
Duncan drops out entirely. The RNC staffers start handing out their resumes to passersby. Blackwell is dead in the water, not having gained any, while Dawson takes on the majority of Duncan voters. Steele picks up more, as does Anuzis. These two essentially become the fulcrum of anti-establishment candidates. Yes. I said fulcrum. Blackwell’s voters run to Steele.
STEELE: 79 (+19)
DAWSON: 69 (+7)
ANUZIS: 20 (-11)
With Steele still in the lead, Anuzis becomes the kingmaker and hands it to Steele.
In other words, what we see is a trend of anti-establishment candidates gelling together versus those who have been on the scene for a while. Dawson, while a good operative, had made blunders that only complacent Republicans would have been happy to countenance.
Two things for conservatives to concern themselves with: First, is that Steele does represent a sense of change. He is a more pro-active spokesman. He is also someone open to ideas — and likely moreso than previous party apparatchiks who might have ignored conservative yelling.
The second is more important. Blackwell’s initial showing does show a problem for the party — the fact that party members are not readily identifiable as part of the movement. Despite the endorsement of the conservative establishment, Blackwell went nowhere. This does not mean that voting members should be banished from conservatives’ Christmas card list. But it does show that the conservative movement, for all their claims of Republican dominance, do not have the influence they thought. Rather than make the claim that these people are intellectually bankrupt, conservatives ought to start figuring out how they can reestablish that influence.