The big news for May came out of Memphis where the Republican National Committee held one of the three meetings it conducts each year. In Memphis, the RNC considered and debated proposals pertaining to taking control of the presidential primary debate process in 2016. I served on the Rules Committee and supported Chairman Reince Priebus’s idea to establish an RNC debate commission which, in consultation with the presidential candidates, would establish a set number of presidential debates, a debate schedule, the networks on which the debates would be televised, and most importantly, the RNC would have to approve debate moderators.
A proposal to establish such a committee passed 152-7. RNC Committeeman Dr. Robin Armstrong, RNC Committeewoman Toni Anne Dashiell, and I all supported the proposal. I did so because I felt there were two major problems with debate process last cycle. The first problem I had was that there were too many debates which resulted in the airwaves being filled with our candidates blasting at each other on a regular basis. Last cycle there were 23 debates. Chairman Priebus indicated it is his preference that there be between 8 and 12 debates which I think is a reasonable number. It’s large enough so that a grassroots candidate who performs well in debates has multiple opportunities to gain traction against well known and established candidates, yet it’s a small enough number to be able to cut down on the over-saturation of negativity that occurred last cycle.
The second problem I believe this proposal can fix is having liberal leaning and/or Democratic leaning moderators conducting the debates. I personally don’t believe George Stephanopoulos is an appropriate questioner for Republican primary debates since he is a former member of the Clinton administration and a Democrat operative. Likewise for Chris Wallace who used to work for House Speaker Tip O’Niell. I also personally would not include Candy Crowley, who became the third debater in a debate betweenGovernor Romney and President Obama, during which I felt Romney was having to debate Crowley and Obama at the same time. It is my hope that this commission in its negotiation with the networks will make sure that a condition of the network televising the debates would be that such partisan moderators not be included.
I feel that this reform of the debate process, along with the previous changes to the rules, which shortened the length of the presidential primary process from basically February to May as opposed to January to July, will greatly assist whoever our nominee ends up being. Also at the RNC meeting the final meeting of the convention commission of which I was member was convened and a final draft report was issued. We recommended that the National Convention be moved up to either June 28th or July 17th, 2016. I believe in fact the next National Convention will be on one of these dates. This provides the party the advantage of holding the convention earlier in the year so as to allow our nominee to access available funds from the RNC much earlier, as well as the nominee having more time to campaign against the Democrat nominee.
Several cities vying for the 2016 National Convention were active at the RNC meeting including our own Dallas, Texas. A fun evening featuring Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders as well as a video on Dallas was a big hit among RNC members. There were originally eight cities vying for the convention but that list had been reduced to six prior to the RNC meeting. Any day now we expect the list to be narrowed even further to three or four cities. My sense from talking to my fellow RNC members is that it’s probable that Dallas will be a finalist, and after that it’s anybody’s guess. I personally think the three frontrunners are Dallas, Denver, and Cleveland. I am admittedly biased but I like Dallas’s chances. National Finance Chairman, and Texan,Ray Washburn helped spearhead the effort to raise money to attract the National Convention and the substantial resources, combined with the amenities Dallas has to offer, makes it a very attractive site. The RPT has already picked Dallas as the site of the State Convention in May 2016 so it would be quite a coup for Dallas if we could have back to back Republican Conventions in the city.
Also at the RNC meeting, Chairman Priebus reported that the RNC is in excellent financial health and we continue to be debt free. In addition, the RNC has significantly out raised the DNC, which has substantial debt on its books. Chairman Priebus also reported that the RNC Victory operations and engagement efforts around the country are going well. I was particularly pleased to hear that the new digital platform is working well in the field overall, however there are still a few bugs to work out. The RNC digital staff which has offices in California and numerous full-time software engineers, continues to update the platform so that we may catch up to and eventually exceed the Democrat’s digital capabilities.
The new digital technology was put to the test on May 17th when we had another one of our four statewide block walks since we initated our Victory operations last year and we have another block scheduled for June 21st so click here to sign up today.
Speaking of conventions, in a couple of days our State Convention will commence in Fort Worth. We have an exciting lineup of speakers, including Senator Rand Paul, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn,Senator Deb Fischer, Senator Kelly Ayotte, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, as well as Governor Perry, Attorney General and gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott, and a number of our Republican elected officials from around the state. There will also be a presidential straw poll conducted at the same time which will allow Texans an early voice in the 2016 presidential selection process.
Even if you’re not a delegate or alternate to the convention you can still vote in the straw poll if you pay the $50 fee. Delegates or alternates who have paid the facility fee may also vote in the straw poll although delegates that have not paid the fee cannot vote since the straw poll is being held in conjunction with the convention as opposed to being official business. We ask everyone to pay a facility fee since the convention budget is roughly $965,000 and we don’t want to use money that is earmarked for campaigns to pay for it. Rather, it has been our practice in the past, and will be at this convention to have delegates help pay their share of the cost by paying the $50 facility fee. Even if all delegates pay the facility fee, the revenue will pay for less than half of the cost of the convention and the rest would have to come from convention sponsors.
I also had an opportunity to travel around the state in May. I even made a trip to Washington, D.C. for the White House Correspondence Dinner in the first week of the month. I was a guest of the Dallas Morning News for which I thank them as it will probably be the only time I have the opportunity to attend the dinner. Also during the first week of May I had an opportunity to speak to the Galveston County Pachyderm Club. The following week I had an opportunity to speak to the RPT field staff who were in from around the state to receive further training. I then left for the RNC meetings in Memphis for the remainder of the week.
The next week I traveled to Bexar County for a meeting of their Senatorial District Caucus. I went from there immediately to Hays County to speak to their delegate caucus. The following day I traveled to Fort Worth to speak to the Tarrant Star Republican Club. Then it was back to Austin to catch up in the office prior to traveling to Taylor, Texas on the third Saturday of the month to speak to the SD-5 caucus. The following week started with a fundraiser in Houston followed the next day by traveling to San Jacinto County to swear in new Precinct Chairmen. From there I was on to Spring, Texas to speak to the Cherry Tree Republicans. Then it was back to Austin for the day followed by a quick turnaround back to Houston to attend the Texas Asian Republicans Assembly event featuring RNC Co-Chair, Sharon Day.
I closed out the month with a speech in Caldwell County followed by attending the Denton County delegate caucus. Upon the conclusion of the delegate caucus it was on to Fort Worth to begin preparations for the State Convention.
I hope all of you that have been selected as a delegate or alternate to the convention will be joining me this week in Fort Worth. The convention is an important event as it determines what our party will stand for in the party platform, as well as providing a shot of enthusiasm for our candidates. The convention this year will be especially important because of its implications for 2016. This is because convention delegates will decide how we pick our national delegates in 2016 as well as conducting a presidential straw. I hope to see you in a few days in Fort Worth. Onward to Victory.
Stephen Munisteri, Chairman