The Associated Press and other news sources are reporting that Florida Senator Mel Martinez will take over as the Republican National Chairman from Ken Mehlman in January. Martinez will remain a Senator, and serve as a public figurehead.
Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, a prominent Hispanic who previously served in President Bush’s Cabinet, will assume the high-profile post of Republican National Committee general chairman, GOP officials said Monday.
Martinez, 60, will remain in the Senate when he takes the reins of the RNC in January, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement. The first-term senator will be the face of the party, focusing on fundraising, outreach and travel to promote the GOP agenda.
At the same time, Mike Duncan, the RNC’s current general counsel and a former party treasurer, will be named chairman and will be put in charge of running the everyday operations at the party’s Capitol Hill headquarters, the officials said.
We are not sure that this is the best move for the Republican National Committee.
There will be obvious punditry about how this could help draw more Hispanics to the party. Hispanics will be a major voting bloc in Texas, Florida, New Mexico, and California – so any in-roads the GOP can make into that ethnic group will be helpful.
Don’t get us wrong. Mel has a GREAT story — the reason we supported him for Senate in 2004, even during the primary. He has done a solid job as Senator, providing a real and rational solution to the immigration debate. He went all out on off-shore drilling to protect Florida’s beaches. He deserves our support as a Senator.
However, the Republican party is facing a problem. It appears that a schism is developing between the libertarian conservatives and the social conservatives. More moderate Republicans lost a lot races in a lot of states because social conservatives demand a larger share of the Republican base. See also: Chafee, Lincoln.
Moreover, Republicans lost ground in places without a lot of Hispanic voters (by percentages of course). Pennsylvania. Ohio. Indiana. New Hampshire. Sure, we could use more Hispanic votes in these states, but there just aren’t enough in these states to win enough votes to carry them in 2008.
Finally, Republicans lost because too many were too close to President George Bush for comfort. Charlie Crist was so concerned about being linked to the President he purposefully stayed away from an appearance in Pensacola the day before the election, and then garnered a lot of press for the ‘slight.’ Jim Tallent appeared with President Bush — and lost his re-election bid.
Okay, so we take a former Bush cabinet Secretary who won election to the Senate with the support of President Bush from a state the President easily carried in 2004 and the Republican governor carried in 2006 and who ran as a social conservative — then we make him RNC Chairman. Yeah, that makes sense.