Final of three reports from the Western Region Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. No one who is still attending the sessions and speeches appears tired or ready to go home.
The conference is under the auspices of the RNC but is a separate organization. I last attended the conference several years ago in San Diego hosted by the California Republican Party. This year, the Nevada Republican Party helped host the conference. This is not an annual conference but when we have one, it’s good.
Most of the speakers have been governors or legislators from the west. After a lot of coffee, the morning opened on a down note. Nothing worse than a last minute cancellation on the first session of the day by Presidential candidate Rep Michelle Bachmann. I was hoping to capitalize on her energy. The upside is that it gave time to get another cup of coffee. All the Hawaii attendees were in their seats because, ……
this morning, we gathered to support former Governor, now Senate candidate, Linda Lingle giving a keynote speech. No one is as comfortable on stage as Linda Lingle and no one makes an audience more comfortable than does she. She reminded the 150 in the auditorium that with the media focused on national implications, every race (except the Presidency) is a local race. She told of her focus on a “strong economy, strong national defense, strong family and a government that lives within its means.” She made the case for a US Senate sub-committee on tourism. She noted the current toxic political environment and argued against hyper-partisan politics. She related the need for national, state and local Republican inclusiveness. In commenting on the need to avoid labels, Lingle spoke longer, and with more appreciation, about the Tea Party than any other speaker this week. Her appreciation centered on Americans (whatever label you want to give them) rising together to put a check on government spending.
About this time, I had the thought that it would have been nice for former Rep Charles Djou to be here. He was scheduled to be a speaker before he was ordered to deploy. Feeling the soldier in me, my prayers went to Djou’s family and to Djou, in Afghanistan, doing his lawyer thing to make life better for other people. I also chuckled, soldiers and Marines will understand this, at the mental visual of Djou wearing 35 pounds of equipment and vest and helmet. (No, I do not miss it.) I appreciate his service in uniform. These good thoughts of Djou and the superb young men and women who serve the nation contrasted with the breaking news of Obama’s stunning foreign policy failure causing the US to ‘bug out’ of Iraq.
The next keynote speaker was former VA Gov and RNC Chair Jim Gilmore – “National security has to remain the top priority for the United States of America” – who then moderated a seminar on the tax code. TX Sen John Cornyn, important as the Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was a no-show but his vote in DC last night to stop another bad piece of Obama’s job (killing) bill was more important. In the afternoon, scheduled was UT Sen Mike Lee (no relation. At least, not to me) and UT Sen Orrin Hatch and then hometown favorite NV Sen Dean Heller wrapped it up. I got ready for an afternoon Lingle for Senate campaign fundraiser/meet & greet before an general reception leading up to the “Gala.”
Sessions today included Facebook instruction, building name recognition (same guy who did the fundraising instruction), county chair training (who couldn’t use that?), using the data you gathered digitally (many of you know Instructor Chad Barth from his RNC time when he spent a lot of time with Bill Finlay getting HRP sufficient with Voter Vault), a Microsoft Cloud application and a balanced budget discussion. Chuck Muth (if you know him, you know him) mentioned Cindy’s attentiveness in his breakout sessions.
The Lingle fundraiser was large enough to have to move around to meet everyone and small enough to be intimate. Guests and RNC members had the opportunity to speak at length with our candidate. I also had the opportunity to catch up with John Peschong (Consultant), Chris Carr (RNC Regional Political Director) and Chad Barth.
You can’t go to one of these conferences and expect that there isn’t a big event to end it. You run into a lot of campaigning and political friends, you make a lot of new friends. Just as in local campaigns, you never know who you’ll be working with next month. While the week is a whirlwind of speakers and sessions, everyone is excited to get home and put their lessons and message to practice. I can’t think of anyone better to keynote the final event and headline the Reagan Centennial Celebration dinner than former RNC Chair, MS Gov Haley Barbour. Among other policy and political positions during his career, he was a political director for President Reagan. You have to understand that when you write these notes after a full day of listening to speeches, watching demonstrations and learning campaign techniques, all the talk and all the people start to blend together. However, Barbour relates to his audience in a special way – “The main thing is keeping the main thing, the main thing.” – and has a great message of making Obama a one term President. “Let’s get Obama a new place to live.” Don’t let our voters be distracted by democratic rhetoric, “focus on Obama’s record.” Regarding our eventual nominee “We’re not going to agree on everything.” “Purity is a dead dog loser.” It will be a tough race against Obama’s billion dollars and additional union money, we must bring all of our voters out to vote.
The Iowa caucus (Jan 3) and New Hampshire primary are no longer around the corner, they are just down the hall, so to speak. The schedule will be final this weekend as negotiations with NV and NH went through this week. Listening to the speakers and activists here, 2012 is here and the focus is on Republicans winning elections. I expect several of the Hawaii attendees to share their perspectives and observations of the week’s activities. I hope my reports gave you an idea of the intensity of a leadership conference, the value of the instruction and contacts and some incentive to attend, if at all possible, the next regional leadership conference. I am looking forward to being home.
I’ll have one of my periodic (every four-five weeks or so) reports out next week as HRP undergoes reorganization and recovery following our change in chair and as the national races continue to take shape.
Aloha from Las Vegas, Willes