(Fred Weinberg) – Ever since the evening of November 2, the sideline Republicans have been looking for someone to blame for Sharron Angle’s loss to Harry Reid.
The so-called Tea Party professionals are now saying they have to be better at vetting the candidates, making the blithe assumption that it was a poor candidate selection which lost an otherwise winnable seat. Never mind that it was the voters who selected Angle in a hard fought GOP primary.
The so-called GOP professionals are now blaming Terry Campbell, Angle’s campaign manager. Never mind that he got her to the position of nominee by beating a campaign run by an extremely well credentialed and highly respected Robert Uithoven.
The truth is that Sharron Angle lost because Harry Reid was able to take advantage of the fact that there is virtually no Republican Party in Nevada—only candidates and individual campaigns.
If the Republicans want to be able to win elections like this one they need to recognize that fact and do something about it.
They could start by blowing up the pitiful, mostly nonexistent, infrastructure they have now and starting over.
In most states, political organizing starts with a precinct captain in every voting precinct.
That person IS the Republican Party to the folks who live in that precinct.
When someone moves into the precinct, they get a visit from the Precinct Captain with a voter registration form, a cake and some coffee. The object is to not only get first shot at registering a Republican voter but also to leave a favorable impression of the Republican Party if that voter happens to be an independent or a Democrat. It never hurts to talk with everyone. You never know when the Democratic Party leaves a particular voter thinking about change. I know registered Democrats whose last vote for a democrat was for John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson. (I also know a few registered Republicans whose last GOP vote was for Richard Nixon.)
During a campaign cycle, it is the Precinct Captain who has the precinct voter list memorized, knows phone numbers and email addresses and is a friendly but persistent voice.
Once a candidate is selected, the Precinct Captain is the place to go for yard signs, campaign information, material and the like. Candidates come and go. So do campaigns. The infrastructure stays forever. It’s bottom up campaigning. When you are heavily represented at the bottom, it’s much easier to get people out to vote.
And that’s essentially how Harry Reid pulled off his return to office—by getting about 40,000 voters to the polls at the last minute. If they ever want to become a serious political force in Nevada, that’s how the Republicans need to start organizing.
In order to start such a bottom-up infrastructure, you have to start at the top.
It’s time for the Republicans to find both a serious state Chair who has the respect of the business community and a serious Finance Chair who is capable of saying “No” to stupid spending. You can’t build an infrastructure without money and you can’t raise money without credibility.
The problem is that the serious Republicans have deserted the party in favor of places like the Keystone Corporation, Nevada Policy Research Institute or their own operations and, in some cases, all three. Simply put, they got tired of pouring money down a rathole and decided to become more focused. In most cases, they have succeeded at the fundraising side. But they have left the party to amateurs.
Perhaps what they really need to do is stage an intervention.
Maybe it’s time for the leadership of the Keystone Corporation to simply take over the GOP’s state central committee and remake it in its own image.
NPRI does wonderful work on the idea side. And guys like Chuck Muth can recruit candidates worthy of the Republican brand.
But it’s time to integrate all of that expertise and make the Nevada Republican Party the same kind of force that the Clark County Democrats have become.
Only then, will the GOP be able to win the kind elections that it just lost.
(Mr. Weinberg is publisher of the Penny Press)