Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mike Duncan Utterly Unqualified to be Republican National Committee Chairman

Since his appointment as Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2007, Mike Duncan has led the Republican Party to the most spectacular national political defeat in Modern American History. To call the Republican National Committee campaign efforts under his leadership disastrously inept is to be charitable to him.

The party’s 2008 Presidential nominee, John McCain, was thoroughly trounced by a Democratic opposition that was agile, well organized, focused, and technologically savvy. We also lost a significant number of seats in both the Senate and the House, where we were already a minority.

Inexplicably, Mr. Duncan apparently seems to believe that his dismal performance of failed leadership in the 2008 election recommends him for another term as RNC chair. Let's face it, his DNC counterpart, the maniacally screechy Howard Dean, just knocked his block off, and Mr. Duncan apparently still fails to realize his own culpability in this debacle.

How else can you explain Mr. Duncan’s recent announcement that he is declaring himself a candidate for another term as RNC Chair, despite the fact that there are already five other candidates in the race, all of whom are eminently more qualified than him to lead the party out of its recent failures?

There are a few who defend Duncan’s leadership. They claim he is a good manager of resources. This argument sounds to me like recommending the captain of the Titanic, had he survived the tragedy, to captain the very next transatlantic passenger ship voyage on the grounds that the kitchen of the Titanic did not once run out of rolls during the entire voyage... at least, until the ship sank in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

Immediately after the election losses, a spate of grass roots efforts grew up, literally almost overnight, to resurrect the Republican Party, this time around based on true principles of conservatism and an understanding and skill in the use of technology to communicate the conservative message. The first, and arguably the most recognized of these efforts, the Rebuild the Party movement, was launched by Patrick Ruffini, who set forward a detailed action plan for the party just days after the election loss.

Other movements, such as Smart Girl Politics, and the #dontgo movement, and the New Republicans, are also spurring the growth of grass roots movements, as well as the group of which I am the co-founder, Top Conservatives on Twitter, which at this moment has over 1,500 members and is growing fast.

There are tens of thousands of netizen warriors working to rebuild the conservative movement and Republican Party this very moment.

I personally set forward a Plan to Rebuild the Republican Party, but I am but one among thousands.

Energy abounds within the conservative grass roots movement. Our organization, which goes by the Twitter search acronym #TCOT, has already set forward a plan to reclaim Congress for Conservative Republicans in 2010.

The awful truth of the matter, which we must acknowledge plainly and honestly, is that Mike Duncan is the #1 technological laggard, and it is time for him to get out of the way so the grass roots conservative movement can now lead the Republican party back to victory.

We’ve been tracking Mr. Duncan's committment to technology here, and the truth is, he's not even making an effort, unlike his five opponents.

Therefore, this evening I am calling on Mike Duncan to immediately withdraw his candidacy for the position of Chairman of the Republican National Committee. I know that he is committed to conservative principles, and I am telling him plainly and directly that the very best thing he can do to advance the cause of conservatism and the Republican Party is to take this personally uncomfortable step right now.

I am making this call for his withdrawal as an individual grass roots conservative Republican activist, who was elected statewide as a Tennessee Delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2008. I speak only for myself, but as co-founder of #TCOT I can say with complete certainty that my views represent the vast majority of the #TCOT community. With the exception of a few of his announced supporters who have recently joined our group, I would hazard to guess that my view may well be unanimously supported by the rapidly growing group of 1,500 conservative activist “netizen warriors”

The 168 members of the Republican National Committee will be voting on January 28-29, 2009 to select a Chairman for the next two years, and I am asking every member of the #TCOT organization who agrees with my views on the necessity of Mr. Duncan's withdrawal to communicate directly and through the use of their blogs with these 168 members.

You can contact these 168 members here.

In addition, you can tell me if you agree with my call for Mike Duncan to withdraw immediately from the RNC Chair Race by taking the online poll on this topic, which you can find now at the #TCOT Report.

I am publicly calling for Mr. Duncan's immediate withdrawal from the RNC race for 2 reasons:

1. The mere fact he has announced his candidacy, in light of two years of the most spectacular failure in American political history indicates how utterly disconnected he is from the real world of technology and engagement in which the rest of us live.

2. Apparently, some RNC members – among those 168 who will be able to vote for Chair Jan 28 are equally disconnected from reality and may be considering a vote for Duncan. This is hard to believe, and points to the importance of immediate corrective action.

The conservative and Republican grass roots movement are likely to ignore the RNC if Mr. Duncan is elected Chairman in January. Frankly, it will sound the death knell of irrelevancy for the RNC. The old guard at the RNC blew it big time. It's time for the failed old guard to step out of the way and let us in the grass roots movement lead now.

I note that Mr. Duncan apparently has recently and belatedly endorsed the Rebuild the Party Platform, but based on his performance of the past two years, I am convinced that he does not comprehend how to implement this platform. It looks to me like he is just checking the box.

Others in the press have recently noted that Mr. Duncan isn't up for the job. Here’s what Shawn Steel had to say in Politico yesterday:

“Duncan has been the Invisible Chairman, installed in January 2007 by Karl Rove to be unobtrusive — a mission he has carried out brilliantly. Many, if not most, Republican leaders and activists don’t know who he is. For example, when Duncan was a guest recently on the Hugh Hewitt Show, the radio host asked Duncan why this was the first time this RNC chairman had ever asked to come on the show and address millions of his fellow Republicans.

Duncan couldn’t give an answer other than he’d been busy for the past year. I suppose that’s one way to look at it. Another way is he hasn’t provided the kind of leadership the Republican National Committee needs in this day and age.

Despite his wraithlike RNC chairman, Duncan is slightly favored for reelection as chairman at the end of January. It should be cause for alarm when the chairmanship front-runner is a “Mike Who?” under who’s watch the GOP suffered its worst drubbing in decades.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

The opposition, also, apparently, is gleeful at the possibility of Mr. Duncan maintaining the Chairmanship of the RNC. Here’s what Yuna Shin recently said at the Huffington Post.

“This morning, NPR's Steve Inskeep interviewed the chairman of the Republican party, Mike Duncan, who is trying to hold on to his chairmanship despite the massive GOP loss in November. The most interesting part of the interview wasn't anything Duncan said.

Rather, it was Duncan's long silence when asked about the perception of the GOP as the party of exclusion. His silence spoke louder than anything that he had said in terms of how incapable the Republican Party still is of recognizing what it did wrong and what it needs to do in order to gain Americans' trust.”

The rest of that article can be found here.

In light of this overwhelming evidence, I humbly request that Mr. Duncan honor my suggestion that he withdraw his candidacy immediately. At #TCOT, all our actions are based on the concept of servant-leadership, a concept that is well articulated
here by James Dickey, the #1 Top Conservative on Twitter.

I believe that after Mr. Duncan has read this article, and thoughtfully reflected on how he can best serve the Republican Party and the conservative movement, he will recognize it is his duty to withdraw from the race for the Chairmanship of the RNC immediately.


Anonymous said...

First, thanks for the opportunity to speak with you and #TCOT followers on Twitter. Second, I want to be clear that EVERY individual running for RNC Chair would be a capable leader for the Party.

As you and I have discussed before, I am supporting Mike Duncan for re-election as RNC Chairman. I have reasons that go far beyond personal friendship.

We need an RNC Chairman that will continue to build the Party. Mike Duncan understands that the RNC Chairman is not just a spokesperson, but someone who will work behind the scenes to the benefit of the Republican Party - even if that work is not recognized publicly.

You note that we need an RNC Chairman that will focus on technology. I couldn't agree more. Despite the media's charge of a GOP technology deficit, Mike Duncan has focused RNC investments on technology that helps win elections. Does the GOP have further to go? Absolutely. And Mike Duncan will maintain his focus on pushing the GOP forward on this. The RNC has proven that its technology helps win elections by reducing campaign costs, increasing volunteer productivity, and leveraging new media to deliver targeted messages to voters.

I hope your readers will work diligently to learn more about all of the quality individuals aspiring to be the RNC Chairman, including our current Chair, Mike Duncan.

Thanks again and I look forward to the discussion.

Best regards,

Steve Robertson
Republican Party of Kentucky
Twitter: steve_robertson

Anonymous said...

You know what is really sad is he does not have the dignity to quit on his own after these horrible losses. I think it speaks to his character.

I would quit if I had done as much damage has he has done but than I have morals!


Andrew Ian Dodge said...

I am sorry Mr Robertson but the Republicans were no where technology. Obama had people on Twitter constantly shilling for him the day before and of the election.

The level of ignorance about things online at all levels of the party, even among the young, is breath-taking. The fact that the media reported when Sen Collins appointed a media guy says it all really. (I might add that unlike some peddling their new media wares in DC, Lance Dutson knows his stuff.)

Unknown said...

With due respect, this is a silly argument. In January, we can either vote for Duncan or not. The Party would gain nothing if he were to resign now, but could in fact be negatively impacted by such a move.
Im my opinion, this is a straw man argument that Leahy is making, and seems peculiar and manic. Duncan isn't the problem, nor is he, nor whomever else might head the RNC, the solution.

Michael Patrick Leahy said...


You should read my article more carefully.

I call for Duncan to withdraw from the RNC Chair Race for the next term immediately, not resign from his current term.

Anonymous said...

A good thought, Michael, but people in power don't surrender it.

The only way we're going to take back the party is to get the grassroots activists working on the local level and building a true mass movement.

We need to build the infrastructure to get out our message, find candidates who can speak intelligently and honesty to the American people, and make sure that those who cannot lead get out of the way.

We should focus our efforts on building up our base, and pouring attention on those with vision.

The idea that Duncan is an effective leader is laughable. Life is unfair, but when your team goes 0-16, you fire the coach.

Jonathan Gaby said...

Thank you to everyone on TCOT for creating a new way to connect with fellow conservatives. I hear great voices and will do well in future work for the RNC.

I would like to comment on Mr. Leahy's article and voice my opinion irenically. I echo KY GOP Chairman Robertson, who I greatly admire having served in previous elections. Every person running for RNC Chair is capable of the post and each candidates' vision for the party makes me very excited for the future! Endorsing no candidate at this time I will, however, stick by my fellow Kentuckian and speak well of him. If you don't know Mike Duncan, then I'll tell you some of the things he's been up to in the past couple years. Most importantly, my perspective as a campaign staffer give me unique credibility to do so.

First, Chairman Duncan must not solely bear the blame for any campaign loss. While each of us worked hard, we must realize all could have done better in our particular responsibilities. Our elected officials largely forgot the reasons for which they were elected, and betrayed the public's trust. Our candidates could have run better campaigns by staying on message, defining the issues, and controlling the arguments. Chief among these faults though is exactly the grassroots organizations that Mr. Leahy maintains stood ready to win. While grassroots volunteerism may have been established and "ready to go" frankly, I never saw the cadres that were supposedly out there. County and Town GOP chairs were elected because of their leadership and recruitment ability, but when asked when their organization wanted to get involved, few answered the call. In the last 100 days, RNC leadership held meetings with key GOP leadership to rally grassroots efforts, McCain held 4-5 events, Palin held 3-4 events, surrogates flooded the state, and NH still stayed blue, losing a crucial senate seat and both congressional districts. RNC and McCain operations stood ready to assist grassroots volunteers but instead staffers spent nearly a month pleading with previous volunteers and activists for help. Whatever extensive grassroots base there was either washed away in the liberal flood of 2006 or wasn't there at all. Quickly we had to grow our own organization or face certain failure. GOP and McCain town chairs misunderstood the strategies Karl Rove and others developed for success. The organization was there to the credit of the campaign, but not to many GOP chairs and other leadership. I'm sure the results would have been drastically different had GOP and McCain Town Chairs done their jobs and let the campaign do theirs.

Second, Chairman Duncan technologically led the streamlining of the entire party. On, any Republican can sign up for his/her own website to fundraise, blog, and recruit volunteers at the grassroots level. Impressively, YouTube and new media is now used to spread our values in ways never before used by RNC, NRSC, and NRCC. Each state or commonwealth party's website is now updated to reflect a standard "feel" and includes blogging and use of Twitter if deemed necessary to the state party.

Third, all that matters in politics is securing at least %51 of the vote during an election. If Twitter, Blogging, and Facebook can do this, by all means, use them. While Blogs, Twitter and Facebook are great ways to reach people, these three mediums are still too new to cast a wide enough net to win elections. Of my 25-30 colleagues on the campaign, only 3 politicos even know what Twitter is. I have told many politicos about twitter because I use it (does that qualify me to run as RNC Chair?) None of us blog although it's becoming a staple in everyones' news diet. What matters most is voter contact through word-of-mouth campaigning from locals in all walks of life passionate about getting their candidate elected. Status updates and articles written on WordPress can't really make someone vote. Some people still don't have internet. A phone call or knock on the door by a supporter asking for someone's vote paired with an effective get out the vote effort usually will. Therefore, Chairman Duncan's development of Campaign College shows he is genuinely concerned about developing all aspects of campaign technology. For example, New Media Campaign School trains staffers in aspects of websites, blogs, opposition research, and other tools necessary for successful E-Campaigns. Campaign Victory School trains staffers in crucial phone banking, door to door, volunteer recruitment, and GOTV work. Keep in mind, Chairman Duncan has developed all this with the understanding that there will be a well established "militia" rising up to take advantage of the resources available during election cycles.

It seems to me that Chairman Duncan is being made a scapegoat for major losses experienced in a "perfect storm" of political opposition. Instead of blaming our chairman for our losses, we should take a look in the mirror and see where our failures may have been, and correct them in 2010. If each of you didn't go door to door, make phone calls, recruit other volunteers, and tell your friends, neighbors, relatives, and coworkers to vote for your candidate, you are equally to blame. All our technologies stand ready to win, but are not used well in some areas. I look forward to a bright and successful season of campaign wins because we have corrected the errors, and have exposed the destructive policies championed by the Obama administration, and members of the house and senate.

Jonathan D. Gaby
Frankfort/Franklin County Youth Chairman
McCain/Palin 2008
twitter: jdgaby

Anonymous said...

The RNC needs a leader who has the organizational and institutional skills that Mike Duncan appears to have due to his experience -- BUT, in a walk through the wilderness, the party ALSO needs a leader that has national political standing, not just experience of the inner workings of the RNC.

Perhaps Mr. Duncan should retain a different, behind the scenes roll (general counsel again comes to mind) and let's get someone with some charisma, someone who is used to punching out the press, getting attention for the Party, and rebuilding the enthusiasm of the grass roots.

I highly suspect that that person is NOT Mike Duncan, regardless of how much respect and gratitude he deserves for his work at the RNC in a number of positions.