by Ron Nehring
Internal elections offer the members and leaders of political parties to refresh and refine their leadership at the onset of a new election cycle. There is a reason many state parties choose their leadership soon after the general election – leaders are put in place to move the party forward in a new cycle.
As the performance of party leadership is reviewed, some commentators and self-styled analysts get it wrong — mixing up what party leaders can control and influence with what they can’t. The result can be incorrect analysis and bad recommendations.
Having served as a party chairman for more than a decade – six years as leader of the Republican Party in San Diego and four as Chairman of the state GOP – I’m acutely aware of what a chairman controls, versus the external factors beyond his control. Measuring a chairman’s success requires a careful examination of the areas a chairman controls, and comparing the party’s performance in those areas against the limits of what was otherwise possible.
First let’s review what a chairman doesn’t control. He (or she) does not pick the nominees – those are chosen by voters in primaries.
America’s political system is candidate-centric, not party centric. Commentators and journalists consistently gloss over the reality that the real decision-making power in any campaign lies with the candidates, who choose their own messages, staff, strategy, tactics and approaches to fundraising. If a candidate alienates key constituencies, fails to raise money effectively, chooses the wrong messages, or their mail lands after the polls close are all decisions made by candidates and campaigns, and it is they who need to be accountable.
And they are – when they lose, they’re out.