Blackwell's Uphill Battle - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Blackwell’s Uphill Battle

Ken Blackwell faced an uphill fight from the very beginning. For the first time since before George W. Bush became president, the Republican National Committee had the opportunity to choose their chairman themselves. Blackwell was the only candidate who had never served on the RNC in any capacity. (Michael Steele wasn’t a current member, but as a former Maryland state party chair, he had served on the RNC in the past.)

Some of Blackwell’s most ardent supporters were movement conservatives outside the RNC. His leading detractors may well have been fellow Ohioans on the RNC, including outgoing RNC Co-Chair Jo Ann Davidson and longtime Ohio state party chairman Bob Bennett. Though it was a coup for Blackwell to pick up the support of the Yobs, especially since Chuck Yob had been rumored as an RNC chair candidate himself, this also to some extent associated him with Michigan’s intraparty feuds. So Blackwell had a lot fans outside the club and some critics inside the club.

Blackwell has also always been a conservative first and Republican loyalist second. While this explains why so many movement conservatives were enthusiatic about him, it’s easy to see how a committee of 168 Republican loyalists might take a different view. Finally, Blackwell entered the race late. He was the last of the candidates to make it to yesterday’s vote to throw his hat into the ring.

At the time I wrote my column on Blackwell’s bid, it looked like he was overcoming these obstacles. Other potential candidates were bowing out and supporting him, including Yob and Blackwell running mate Tina Benkiser of the Texas Republican Party. Blackwell initially led the field in public endorsements by RNC members. Early on, no split between the party establishment and movement conservatives — a split that had defined much of Blackwell’s political career in Ohio — was apparent. But as other candidates began to pass him by in public commitments, I began to wonder if his support was going to be limited to the most conservative RNC members.

Why aren’t there more movement conservatives — or people swayed by endorsements from movement conservatives — on the Republican National Committee? Good question. Why are most of the movement conservatives in elected office in the House, with only a handful among the senators and governors? The last movement conservative to win the party’s presidential nomination was Ronald Reagan in 1984. The movement has succeeded in pushing the party’s center somewhat to the right — a field where Steele is the most moderate candidate is a pretty conservative field by, say, 1970s standards — but its control on the GOP’s levers of power are exaggerated.

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