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Changes Afoot at the NRCC

Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) is and will remain the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, but House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) demonstrated this morning at a Conference meeting who's really in charge by announcing a series of changes designed to shake up the campaign arm in the wake of three special election losses in the span of two months (and a financial scandal).

Democratic victories in Mississippi, Louisiana and Illinois special elections had prompted many in the GOP to call for Cole's head or, short of that, for the leadership to make wholesale changes at the committee. After several "frank" meetings with Cole, Boehner announced this morning that:

* The NRCC will now wade into competitive GOP primaries when appropriate. This is a significant shift, as Cole's policy has been to stay out of such contests even when the party believes one candidate would clearly be the best general election bet. In Illinois and Louisiana in particular, Republicans suffered because they fielded a poor nominee. The race to replace retiring Rep. Vito Fossella (R) in New York, which could draw several GOP contenders, could be the first high-profile test of the new policy.

* There will be an "audit" of the three special election losses conducted by two as-yet-unnamed Republican lawmakers, designed to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid repeating those mistakes in the future. This could be an embarrassing exercise for Cole and his top staff, but they agreed to it, likely because they didn't have a choice.

* The party will step up its efforts to establish special fundraising committees for seats with contested GOP primaries occurring late in the season, which will raise cash that will automatically go to the eventual nominees. This fairly common practice will prevent those nominees from starting the general election race at a financial disadvantage after a costly primary. This effort will be led by Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas), who lost to Cole in the race to chair the NRCC for this Congress.

In addition to the changes Boehner announced this morning, the NRCC will be adding Ed Brookover as a consultant, putting a close Boehner ally in the committee's senior leadership. Brookover was political director of the NRCC from 1995 to 1999. He is now at the consulting firm Greener and Hook, where his official bio helpfully notes, "During his tenure at the NRCC, Brookover managed the GOP to upset victories in three key special elections."

This is something of a compromise between Boehner and Cole. Last September, Boehner tried to force Cole to fire his two top aides, Pete Kirkham and Terry Carmack, but Cole held his ground. Those two staffers are still in place, so it's unclear now where Brookover will fall in the pecking order. Also uncertain is the role that will be played by a new 12-member advisory committee established a few weeks ago to help oversee the campaign arm. What is clear is that Boehner and his fellow leaders will play an increasingly larger role in guiding the NRCC's decisions for the rest of the year.

Will any of these changes make a real difference in what is shaping up to be a brutal cycle for the GOP? If they don't, it's possible that neither Boehner nor Cole will be around to pick up the pieces in 2009.

By Ben Pershing  |  May 21, 2008; 11:17 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , GOP Leaders , House  
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Nice moves by Boehner. Kind of like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Posted by: jmsbh | May 21, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Gonna be hard for the GOP to 'fix' a problem that's structural to what the GOP has become.

For the past 7 years the GOP has been able to obfuscate who they are through fear tactics, but the American public have decided they've had enough, and are now taking a hard look at the Party.

The message to the GOP: Prepare to be schooled! You won't feel the real sting until the weeks and months after the November elections. But it's coming. Hard.

Posted by: HillRat | May 21, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

What's to be done? The Republican ideology is, as their hero Ronnie Raygun said, is that government is the problem, not the solution. They've spent all their years in power proving that it's true. All they know how to do is attack their political opponents. Godless traitors, terrorist-loving freedom haters..I don't think anyone is going to buy a 'kinder gentler' GOP so all they can do is more of the same. They've ruined this country, destroyed its ideals and they are SO toast come November. Good riddance!

Posted by: thebob.bob | May 21, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

home roost come chickens to.

Posted by: TheFrog | May 21, 2008 9:01 PM | Report abuse

I will try to save the GOP from having to analyze what to others is self evident: (1) You have become a party of the fringe, (2) your years of rubber-stamping an administration's wild and inane adventures in foreign policy without questions, (3) your inability to control spending, (4) the approach to immigration issues with xenophobic frenzy, (5) your rush to adopt a "flat world" ideology, (6) your failure to listen to dissenters and become a "know-nothing" party of automatons, (7)your continued stance of apologetic behavior in the face of some of the growing crimes against the Constitution, (8) your willingness to weaken the rights of the American people under the cover of "security," and the list could go on and I would exceed my limit.

I had been a registered Republican and am no more. I am a veteran and have been ashamed of seeing an AWOL chief executive strut on a world scene supporting the likes of Cheyney and Rumsfeld, America's best known draft dodgers. I am also white and over 65 and it will be a cold day in hell before I ever vote for a Republican who supports what has gone on for the last eight years. My advice: Explore your roots, your history, and what it might mean if you represent America rather than your own special interests. I doubt if I will see it in my lifetime, so better not plan on my vote again.

Posted by: CLG | May 22, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

The Republican Party has shown they are in favor of the current Administrations actions by their lack of support for the only candidate running in this election, on both sides, that would restore our rights, and lessen the infringement of the government. That candidate, Ron Paul, is a Republican, and is still in the race, but the "powers that be" in the Republican party are not looking to return to the principles of the Republican party, like the candidates in the Democratic party, will continue to lie cheat and steal to retain their power.

Posted by: Nancy Stefani | May 22, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

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