Buzz – RNC Winter Meeting, Day 1

Aloha Friends,

Julie and I are at the RNC Winter Meeting in New Orleans.  I provided a report to you following the RNC Summer Meeting but, acknowledging the pace of an election year, I’ll send brief daily ‘Buzz’ reports – an overview of the meeting and the major topics of discussion – in committee or in the side rooms.

Today, was filled with committee and sub-committee meetings.  There are 172 listed attendees.  We’ll know officially how many of the RNC members are here when the business sessions begins.  The HRP decided to forego an appointment to fill our vacant National Committee Man position so we have two of three voting members present, National Committee Woman Miriam Hellreich and Chair David Chang.  There are also about 70 guests plus state staffers, representatives from national committees and organization and the media – print, on-line, bloggers and television.

The Rules Cmte, Budget Cmte, Redistricting Cmte, and Cmte on Contests met in sometimes overlapping sessions.  State chairs had a session together.  The focus is on business to be conducted during this meeting – proposed changes to RNC Rules, cmte presentations, a budget update – but the side talk is about the Presidential election.  The Rules cmte will propose a change from two to three business meetings/year.

The cmte on contests is the cmte that determines sanctions and penalties for states who went early and they arbitrate delegate credential issues at convention time.  Consensus in the RNC is that Rules are rules and Republicans follow rules so penalties for states that hold primaries and caucuses before the allowed date have to be enforced.  However, no one wants to see delegates disqualified from participating and one of the states that went early is the site of the National Convention…….Florida.  Florida RNC members discussed how they tried to get the Republican legislators to stop the effort to move Florida earlier in the delegate process but they were unable to do so.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus is everywhere.  I have documented my delight with his RNC leadership.  The RNC is functioning as a team.  Fundraising is exceeding expectations and the RNC budget has to be continuously updated to reflect the success.  Donors have a renewed trust in the RNC.  The RNC is the only committee that can directly coordinate campaigns with our Presidential nominee.  Successful fundraising translates directly to a robust Get Out The Vote (GOTV) ground game.  Each time the Budget cmte met this year, the cmte adjusted figures to account for the accelerated pace of Priebus’ fundraising.  RNC debt (down from $24M) is now less than COH!  Chang faces a similar situation with increasing HRP debt while also preparing for an election.

We had two meetings of the Conservative Caucus.  The caucus met early this morning to discuss proposed rules changes, most are now housekeeping suggestions.  At the end of the day, the Conservative Steering Cmte met and received an intriguing, somewhat shocking, update on border security.  The abuse of our southern border is worse than you can imagine.

At the Summer meeting, Romney was the only campaign with a presence – staffers providing a detailed update of the organization, media plan and fifty state plan.  I met with his political director, a campaigning friend for a number of years, to hear of Romney’s national political strategy.  After the squeaker in Iowa and the win in NH, apparently, his plan is working.  Today, campaign surrogates are around (though, mostly Romney), gauging the support of RNC members.  With their caucus and primary complete, the Iowa and New Hampshire RNC members get surrounded everywhere they go. South Carolina RNC members are never left alone.  While most of the talk and action is about Romney and Gingrich, Paul is in every discussion.

Last night, more than 100 members and guests got together for an informal pre-meeting dinner organized by a couple RNC members.  When we started these side-outings a couple years ago, we had about 30 members.  Tonight is a welcome reception for all members and guests.  Superstar Gov Bobby Jindal is the keynote speaker.  After the reception, dinner with friends (Counsel and a couple southern states).

It was a balmy 60 degrees today and tonight will drop to 40 degrees.  It is hard to not have fun in New Orleans even if we’re spending all day in the hotel conference rooms.

More buzz, tomorrow.