Will the Republican National Convention heal the GOP’s wounds?

Political conventions typically provide a chance for parties to come together, particularly after bitter, protracted primary battles.But this year's presidential race has been hardly typical, especially among Republicans — including those from Tennessee.With the Republican National Convention set to begin Monday, Donald Trump, the party’s presumptive nominee, will have his work cut out for him to successfully unite Republicans on the state and national level.Tennessee's GOP delegates highlight the divide within the Republican Party that Trump will have to bridge in Cleveland, Ohio.On one end of the spectrum are U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is set to speak at the convention, and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who, until recently, had been considered a potential vice presidential candidate and could secure a Cabinet position in a Trump administration.On the other side, there's outspoken conservative state Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, who had harsh words for Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. "And there you have it. Two of the most repulsive and divisive people in history are now running for president of the United States," Holt said. "God have mercy on us."Although there have been few Tennessee politicos who have joined the Never Trump movement to try and formally stop his nomination, some — including Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander — have taken a more tepid approach. More on the RNCHaslam has frequently criticized Trump for comments he's made, while Alexander has occasionally refused to call Trump the GOP nominee until that's formally done at the convention.“Typically, conventions rally their troops, give them a bump up in the polls, then after Labor Day real campaigns begin,” said Tom Ingram, a longtime Tennessee Republican operative who worked for Jeb Bush and John Kasich during their presidential campaigns and has attended Continue Reading

Outgoing Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele’s 10 best gaffes

Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele abandoned his re-election bid Friday after four rounds of balloting left him far short of a second term. Steele, who just finished his first two-year term in the job, dropped out as four other hopefuls competed to become his successor. Steele, 52, urged his backers to give their support to GOP operative Maria Cino, who worked in George W. Bush's administration, but Reince Priebus, the head of the Wisconsin Republican Party, ultimately was elected after seven rounds of voting. The GOP's first black chairman received a standing ovation from the party regulars after pulling out of the race. His spotty two-year reign included huge victories by the GOP in the November elections, but for many, Steele is known more for his verbal gaffes than his electoral accomplishments. Let's take a look at some of the best. Thanks for the memories, Michael! October 2010: Uhh, remind me again, what's the minimum wage? Steele came under fire after admitting that he doesn't know what the federal minimum wage is. In an interview with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, Steele refused to rule out repealing or lowering the minimum wage. When pressed, the chairman couldn't cite the pay rate for America's lowest earners. "What is the minimum wage, Michael?" the host asked. "You really like the minimum wage, don't you?" Steele said, laughing. When O'Donnell said it was okay to say he didn't know what it was, Steele snapped and accused him of "trap playing." February 2009: You know what the GOP really needs? A hip-hop makeover! The RNC chairman told the Washington Times that he'll "surprise everyone" with an "off the hook" public relations campaign to update his party's image. "We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles," he told the newspaper. "But we want to apply them to urban-suburban, hip-hop settings." When asked if the makeover Continue Reading

Could Sarah Palin replace Michael Steele as Republican National Committee chairman? Not likely

As calls within the GOP to oust Michael Steele continue, a possible replacement is being floated among conservative circles. Sarah Palin. The former Alaskan governor's name has been brought up by pundits and conservative bloggers to take over as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. "This is a job for Sarah Palin," writes Kevin Williamson with the National Review. "Palin would be a much better RNC chairman than presidential candidate or freelance kingmaker." According to CBS News' Bill Plante, "Some members of the GOP base are calling for her" to take the job. "She brings the Tea Party wing and the Neocon wing together, as both adore her," writes The Reid Report's Joy Reid. "The RNC needs Sister Sarah, and not for nothing, but Sarah needs to prove she can hold onto a job that requires her to show up every day, rather than just have some aide issue manifestos on Facebook." But the reality is this kind of Palin speculation is just fantasy. "Being RNC chair would put Sarah a step behind in the footrace to beat Glenn Beck at the multimedia money-grubbing grifter game, and I have a feeling she would feel limited in a role as a boring party chairman," Reid writes. Steele was slammed last year for the thousands he earned for speaking engagements, and Palin earns big bucks making speeches and serving as a Fox News contributor, so she would probably not want the job. The former Alaskan governor also enjoys a sense of freedom in terms of what she can say, and would likely feel hamstrung as an official party leader. Besides, ousting Steele at this point is unlikely, according to The Associated Press. "Everyone is basically working around him," said former GOP Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota. "Republicans have sort of put together a mode of operation for this election cycle that does not put the RNC chairman in a central role," he said. Plus, as they gear up for the November elections, getting down and dirty with an Continue Reading

Republican National Committee spent $900K of $5.5M on an insurance payment: campaign reports

WASHINGTON - The Republican National Committee's $5.5 million in July receipts includes a $900,000 insurance payment, helping boost anemic fundraising by the national party.Federal campaign reports show that Democratic Party committees maintained a cash on hand advantage over their Republican counterparts as they entered the final three months before the election.The Republican Party's insurance payment was from Illinois National Insurance, a subsidiary of insurance giant American International Group. A party official said the money was for an insurance claim but said there was a confidentiality provision in the agreement. The official was not authorized to discuss the claim publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.The official said the payment was not related to AIG's financial troubles, which required a massive federal bailout.Even with the claim, the RNC's receipts were less than half the $11.6 million raised by the Democrats. The Democratic Party reported $10.8 million in the bank and $3.5 million in debts; Republicans showed $5.3 million in the banks and $2.2 million in debts.The RNC is by far the GOP committee struggling the most, creating anxiety among Republican operatives and increasing pressure on outside groups to help make up the financial gap.The National Republican Congressional Committee raised $8.5 million to help House candidates, surpassing the $6.2 million raised by its Democratic counterpart. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee showed $35.8 million in the bank compared to $22 million for the NRCC.The two parties' senatorial committees were closer to parity. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $4.4 million and had $22.4 million in the bank. The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised nearly $4.2 million and had $21.2 million in the bank. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Republican National Committee spent nearly $2,000 at West Hollywood strip club Voyeur

Talk about grand ol' partying. The "family values" Republican National Committee spent almost $2,000 last month at an erotic, bondage-themed West Hollywood club, where nearly naked women - and men - simulate sex in nets hung from above. The RNC's risqué business expense covered a night out at the high-end S&M club Voyeur Feb. 4, Federal Election Commission records filed by the RNC show. A red-faced party spokesman insisted yesterday that party head Michael Steele - already under fire for running up outlandish expenses - was not among the revelers. "The chairman was never at the location in question he had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location at all acceptable," said RNC spokesman Doug Heye. Party officials refused to clarify how anyone at the RNC could have found the expense appropriate. The right-leaning blog, RedCounty.com, reported that the outing was part of an RNC push to recruit local "eagles," the party's honorary tag for young, big-ticket donors. The dark, leather-heavy club features a net hung above the bar where topless performers - dressed in little more than masks and bikini bottoms - writhe above the heads of clubgoers. The Voyeur scene has drawn such A-listers as bad girl Lindsay Lohan and pop diva Lady Gaga. One recent patron wrote in an online review: "There are topless 'dancers' acting out S&M scenes throughout the night," adding she was "stopped dead in my tracks to watch two girls simulating oral sex in a glass case." At least one night a week, the dancers are all male, although the RNC hoedown appeared to be a ladies' night. West Hollywood is the heart of the L.A.-area gay community. Heye conceded that the RNC had reimbursed an unnamed, "noncommittee staffer" for the naughty night. That appeared to be California Republican Erik Brown, 33, a marketing exec who has worked for the National Rifle Association and the Orange County GOP. Last fall, he Continue Reading

Report: Big donors jumping ship from Republican National Committee, Michael Steele over spending

The RNC may be in need of some TLC. In the wake of an embarrassing spending spree of nearly $2,000 at a risque strip joint, which led to one staffer being fired, a new report suggests donors are abandoning the Republican National Committee - and have been for a while. "There are a whole lot of troubling things going on," a major GOP donor told The Daily Caller. The source claims prominent Republican donors have stopped handing their money over to the RNC. Instead, they're pouring their pocketbooks into the coffers of the GOP's Senatorial Committee. Daily Caller reports that Federal Election Commission filings show at least eight top donors, including Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, have declined to contribute for more than a year. Since 2009, the records show, they have instead given funds to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee or individual campaign committees. This shift in big money contributions may suggest unhappiness with Michael Steele, chairman of the RNC. "I think the party loses any moral standing to talk with credibility about how Democrats are spending taxpayer money when the RNC is being arguably as reckless with donor money," Mark DeMoss, chief executive of an Atlanta-based  public relations company, told the Daily Caller. A recent analysis by Politico.com found that under Steele, RNC spending on private jets had doubled, limo trips had tripled and meal expenses jumped from $306,000 to $599,000 compared with the same period in 2005. With Kenneth R. Bazinet and David Saltonstall Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Republican National Committee set to relaunch Web site that incorporates social media

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is readying its Web site for a relaunch that promises to incorporate the social media tools the party admits to ignoring during the 2008 election, but is today's Web 2.0 friendly to the GOP? "Conservatives didn't use the tools" available to them during the election, Todd Herman, the RNC's new media director, told attendees at the Personal Democracy Forum. "But that's changing." Herman, who previously served as general manager for media strategy and monetization for Microsoft's MSN network as well as streaming media evangelist at MSNBC.com, joined the RNC in March. Herman expects to unveil a revamped GOP.com in about 45 days, he said. RNC Chairman Michael Steele has ordered him to "take the lid off" in redesigning the site, and Herman said he is eager to comply. "To the consternation of the communications staff of the RNC, I am innately set on open," Herman said. "I am innately set to take your point of view and discuss it." Herman suggested, however, that the "rules of engagement" regarding social media do not necessarily favor Republicans. Services like Google News are using techniques that are "anti-SEO" – search engine optimization – he said. Herman pointed to Google News and its coverage of the American Medical Association's (AMA) opposition to Obama's plan for a government-sponsored insurance plan. Google News, he said, provided links to an ABC news story about its healthcare town hall with Obama, and a Media Matters story about how the GOP had branded that town hall a failure, but nothing that used a phrase close to "AMA rejects Obama plan". To find such a headline, one would have to go to a "not very well-trafficked blog," Herman said. That blog linked to a New York Times story on the issue that Herman acknowledged was "well done." He did not, however, like the fact that the Times used the phrase "doctor's group" in the headline instead of AMA. Searching for the AMA story on Continue Reading

Can Michael Steele lead GOP out of woods? Republican National Committee picks first black chair

WASHINGTON - Blue-state moderate Michael Steele beat four more hardline GOP candidates Friday to become the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. "As a little boy growing up in this town, this is awesome," said the 50-year-old Steele, who was a Roman Catholic seminarian before going into politics in Prince Georges County, Md., bordering Washington. Steele quickly pledged to break the current mold of the GOP as a southern and southwestern stronghold and reach out to reclaim the party's former base in New York and the Northeast. "To my friends in the Northeast, get ready baby. It is time to turn it on and work, and work to do what we always do well, and that is win," said Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and failed Senate candidate. Steele had his moment of fame at the Republican National Convention last year when he coined the "Drill Baby Drill" chant that was taken up by John McCain and Sarah Palin to push for more off-shore drilling. Steele, whose selection came just 10 days after the inauguration of the first African-American President, beat South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson 91-77 on the sixth round of voting. Reigning RNC Chairman Mike Duncan and a second African-American candidate, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, had withdrawn on earlier ballots. In New York, the Rev. Al Sharpton congratulated Steele while stressing the need for more civil rights activism. With both parties now headed by African-Americans in Steele and President Obama, "we may at times find ourselves challenging people who share our color," Sharpton said. Steele made the case for a 50-state campaign to make the GOP a majority party again. "It's time for something completely different," Steele said. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Steele would make the GOP a "more principled, more inclusive party." Gov. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the new head of the Democratic National Committee, also Continue Reading

Don’t slam Bam, say GOPers: Republicans slam party leaders for ads linking Obama to Blagojevich

WASHINGTON – Several high profile Republicans are bashing their party's leaders for launching a web ad linking President-elect Barack Obama to disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. "I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a President-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote to RNC Chairman Mike Duncan. The nearly 3-minute-long spot approved by Duncan uses newspaper clips and footage in an attempt to raise concerns over Obama's relationship with the governor accused of trying to sell the President-elect's vacant Senate seat to the highest bigger. "Questions remain," a graphic reads at the end of the video. The RNC doesn't plan to remove the spot, which has spread over the Internet, a source told The Daily News Wednesday. Gingrich lashed out at his own party just days after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fired a similar volley at the RNC for playing up Obama's relationship with Blagojevich, saying on ABC's "This Week" program. "In all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody - right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy stimulus package, reforms that are necessary," the GOP's 2008 White House hopeful said. Even the online guru for ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid chimed in. “Any residual connections Obama may have with Gov. Blagojevich as a result of being an Illinois Senator are not the strongest part of our argument. I can understand the desire to go at Obama. But with Obama at 76% approval for the transition, our hits against him have to be clean hits, or they will blow up in our face," Patrick Ruffini wrote on the conservative Web site, The Next Right. Continue Reading

Republican National Committee boss appalled by song about Obama

After a day of silence, the chairman of the Republican National Committee Saturday slammed GOP operative Chip Saltsman for distributing a CD including a satirical song called "Barack the Magic Negro." "The 2008 election was a wakeup call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party," RNC Chairman Mike Duncan said in a statement. "I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction," Duncan continued. Saltsman, who served as Mike Huckabee's campaign manager during the Republican presidential primary, is one of several candidates vying to unseat Duncan as head of the RNC. The Tennessee Republican sent the satirical CD, entitled "We Hate the USA," to GOP members, along with holiday greetings. The controversial song about Obama was one of about 40 tracks on the disk, which pokes fun at liberals. "Barack the Magic Negro," written by political satirist Paul Shanklin, is set to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon" and got airplay on Rush Limbaugh's radio show. The song's title comes from a 2007 Los Angeles Times opinion column about Obama. The term "magic Negro" was used in the piece to describe black figures who allow whites to soothe their guilt over America's history of slavery and segregation. Among the tune's lyrics: "Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper/Said he makes guilty whites feel good/They'll vote for him, and not for me/'Cause he's not from the 'hood." After congressional newspaper The Hill reported on his gift, Saltsman defended the CD as a joke. "I think most people recognize political satire when they see it," he said in a TV interview. Saltsman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Duncan's rebuke Saturday. Among those who have endorsed Saltsman's bid to lead the RNC are Huckabee and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading