'Orphan' state parties worry GOP
by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, POLITICO 4/9/12 (excerpt)
National Republicans have begun to intervene in a handful of key Senate and House battlegrounds where state parties are in disarray, seeking to head off the possibility that local mismanagement could cost the party control of Congress.
The GOP presidential nominee will be impacted by the state party woes, but what especially worries Republican operatives are those states where there is no competition on top of the ticket but which feature a number of pivotal Senate and House contests.
These “orphan states,” most notably behemoths with traditionally weak parties like California, Illinois and New York, are increasingly the focus of top GOP officials in the nation’s capital this spring.
The Republican National Committee is going to set aside at least $10 to $15 million to aid states where there are competitive House and Senate races but minimal presidential action, a party official tells POLITICO. That’s enough to blunt the GOP’s financial disadvantage in several states, though not to erase the disparity or put the orphan-state groups on par with their swing-state counterparts.
Half of the money will go to the states with hard-fought House contests, including the blue mega-states, and the other half will be directed to states like Montana and North Dakota, where there are crucial Senate battles.
House Speaker John Boehner and the National Republican Congressional Committee are also stepping in to bolster the state GOP in a handful of the orphan states. By month’s end, Republicans aim to have six “Victory Centers” set up to help with turnout efforts in the six targeted House races in Illinois, according to a GOP aide. California and New York will also get special attention from the speaker, the NRCC and the RNC. There are at least 20 House races in those states that could help determine control of the lower chamber. In California and Illinois, the state parties have more debt than cash on hand for federal races, while the New York Republican Party had just $54,000 in federal funds in the bank at the end of February.
“Helping our House members in states like New York, California and Illinois — where we expect big union bosses and liberal Super PAC’s to invest heavily — is a top priority for the Speaker’s political team,” said Corey Fritz, a Boehner aide. “Each of these states presents a number of offensive and defensive races, and the Speaker is committed to ensuring our Republican members and challengers have the resources needed to win.”
Across Washington, Senate GOP strategists are also moving to act. Senior RNC officials are meeting this coming week with NRSC aides to discuss similar Senate “orphans,” one of which will be Hawaii. Republicans have an A-list candidate there in former Gov. Linda Lingle, but must overcome a sure-fire landslide for President Obama in his native state and do so with a weak state GOP. As of the end of February, the Hawaii GOP had $29,000 in the bank in federal funds and was carrying over $100,000 in debt.
The problem isn’t limited to the orphans.
The Minnesota GOP is so deep in debt it has stopped paying the lease on its headquarters, the Iowa and Nevada parties are in transition after disastrous caucuses, and Ohio Republicans have been in a state of open warfare for months.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, himself a former Wisconsin GOP chair, is acutely aware of the state party difficulties and in recent weeks has expressed concern to senior Republicans about how poorly some of them were doing financially, according to a GOP insider. That the RNC is in a position at all to try and rescue distressed state parties is a reflection of the committee’s financial turnaround since it ran up over $20 million in debt in 2010….
A … California Republican operative grumbled about ideologically-driven activists being more interested in party purges than winning elections. This Republican noted that the first big party gathering after their dismal 2010 showing was marked not by soul-searching about what went wrong but was dominated by a resolution about whether GOP legislators who supported allowing voters to decide how to fill the budget deficit should be deemed as “traitorous” and recalled from office.
“The party has been co-opted by some folks who aren’t very good at raising money or winning elections,” said the California Republican. “As a political party that really renders you irrelevant, which is what has happened here.”
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