Does it matter who ends up running the Republican Party?

As Jonathan noted yesterday, the Republican National Committee needs a new leader, with no front-runner emerging for that job. Meanwhile, a mini-scandal has erupted over one candidate's decision to give RNC members a CD including a song called "Barack the Magic Negro."

Since the election, the divided Republican Party of Iowa has also been preoccupied with the search for a new chair. The comment threads on the leadership contest at Iowa conservative blogs are nastier than anything I remember reading on Democratic blogs when Howard Dean was running for Democratic National Committee chairman in 2005.

I've been wondering how much these leadership contests matter.

Obviously some people will be better organizers or better fundraisers or better communicators than others, and for all I know some of the declared candidates are truly inept. But let's assume the Republicans find leaders with all the qualities on a party hack's wish list. Will they be able to turn things around for the GOP by raising more money and improving their campaign mechanics?

Commenting on plans to create a think tank within the RNC called the "Center for Republican Renewal,"Matthew Yglesias recently observed,

Ambitious people don't like the idea that their fate is out of their hands. But an opposition political party's fate is largely out of its hands. The Democratic Party's recovery from its low ebb in the winter of 2004-2005 had very little to do with Democratic policy innovation and a great deal to do with the fact that the objective situation facing the country got worse. The time for the GOP to improve, policy-wise, was back then. Had the Bush administration been animated by better ideas, Bush might not have led to declining incomes, rising inequality, and catastrophic military adventures. But since he did, the GOP lost. And now the reality is that it's the Democrats' turn to govern. If things work out poorly, the GOP will get back in whether or not they have an ideological renewal, and if things work out well the Republicans will stay locked out.

I suspect Yglesias is right. Republican conservatives want to "embrace their core principles and effectively communicate a compelling message of bold-color conservatism". Moderates want to do away with "litmus tests" and "recapture the broad base."

But the facts of life are these: in Iowa and at the federal level, voters have given Democrats control of the legislative and executive branches. Whether the Republicans bounce back in 2010 or 2012 will depend more on whether Democrats blow it than whether the RNC or the Iowa GOP State Central Committee chooses the right leader.

What do you think?

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Northeast leading Dem House takeover?

Charlie Cook released his latest estimate of the House election scene to the general public today (May 31).  Cook called the Republican situation "somber" and said that Democrats now are in a better situation than Republicans were at the same point in 1994.  Perhaps more to the point, Cook wrote that Republicans are running 5 to 10 points behind their 2004 showing across the board.  Cook moved two races from likely Reepublican to toss-up (CA-50 and KY-4) and 12 races into likely Republican.  How bad is it, Charlie?  Well, the title of his piece is "Getting Pulled Under."

Cook is finally (and yes, I mean finally) sensing the big surge in the Northeast for Democrats and against Republican opponents.
Eight of the 12 races that have moved into likely Republican are in the Northeast: Charlie Bass (NH), Jeb Bradley (NH), Michael Ferguson (NJ), Tom Sweeney (NY), Randy Kuhl (NY), Don Sherwood (PA), Curt Weldon (PA) and Nancy Johnson (CT).  The other four were Richard Pombo (CA), Jon Porter (NV), Thelma Drake (VA), and once more Anne Northrop (KY).

The DeLay-Hastert regime seriously weakened the influence of Republican moderates by 1)imposing term limits on committe chairmanships 2) making the choice of committe chairs dependent on the vote of the Republican caucus rather than on seniority and 3) attempting to insure that bills represented the majority of the Republican caucus rather than the majority of the House as a whole.  Republican moderates bear much of the brunt of the upcoming House tsunami.  Five of the six most liberal (moderate, really) Republican House members are on Cook's endangered list (including the retiring Sherwood Bowhlert whose seat is on thwe list): and six of the top ten (Shays< Boehlert, Leach, Nancy Johnson, Michael Fitzpatrick, Rob Simmons).  In contrast, only one of the top tem Democratic moderates (number 10 Jim Marshall) is endangered. (All score are from Progressive Punch as of May 31).

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