November 14th, 2008
06:37 PM ET
10 years ago

SC GOP chair seeks big changes for party

MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (CNN) - It’s no secret that South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson is moving towards a run at the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. But before entering what is shaping up to be a crowded field, Dawson is convening Republican officials from around the country this weekend in Myrtle Beach for “a conference to chart the future of our party.”

Though former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele and Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis have both officially declared their candidacy for the position, Dawson said he won’t formally decided to enter the RNC race until “a later date.” In the meantime, the garrulous Southerner plans to spend the weekend brainstorming with Republican strategists, state party chairs and RNC committee members on ways to improve on the GOP’s dismal performance on November 4.

“We certainly had some real bright spots in the Republican Party over the last election cycle, but we had a lot of bad news, so right now we are analyzing the situation and hope to make an announcement in the future,” he said.

In an interview with CNN, Dawson reflected on the presidential election and marveled at the potency and breadth of Barack Obama’s campaign organization, particularly their ability to maximize early voting in over 30 states to get their voters to the polls.

“Intrinsically, we got beat 35 days out,” he said. “We’ve got a 72-hour program that worked for us in 2000 and 2004. And now it’s a 35-day program, and voting now is early voting. That was a strategy they used that caught us.”

He said his party faces a technological deficit, but it’s a weakness he thinks can be overcome in just one year, before the next big round of national elections in 2010. That may be a difficult task against a Democratic president with an email list 10 million strong.

“We’re going to have to up-fit the Republican Party, or re-boot it as they’ve said on TV, and move forward,” he said, noting the Obama campaign’s use of cell phone technology, Internet fundraising and fresh marketing techniques.

He also acknowledged that Republicans need to find ways to reach out to minority groups like African-Americans and Hispanics, two constituencies that McCain lost badly in a historic election.

“You’re just not going to look at just one section of the electorate, and I think just targeting outreach to one section won’t work,” he said.

Ultimately, Dawson stressed that Republicans can win election by returning to the party’s basic principles, with a specific focus on “values” and limited government, instead of big spending.

“When we do that, we win,” he said, pointing to down-ballot state house wins in Southern states like South Carolina and Tennessee.

Pushing back against Obama’s plans for “bigger government,” he predicted, will be “a major argument in the next 24 months.”

As for social issues: “Obviously, principles are important to me and values are important to me. And I think that’s one of the popularities that Sarah Palin brought to the ticket that re-energized our base and our party and our volunteers. Maybe not enough and too late, but it will take that, along with strategies, and certainly we’re going to have to look at the new strategies that Barack Obama’s campaign used.”

The good news, Dawson said, is that a fleet of new GOP faces are ready to help polish the GOP brand in the coming years. In particular, he named younger Republican legislators like Palin, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, South Carolina Rep. Gresham Barrett, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as future faces of the party.

Filed under: GOP • RNC
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. jim

    who cares about GOP!

    November 14, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. Desert Storm Vet

    Th GOP needs to go back to what it stood for when Ronald Reagan reformed it. We don't need Ford's, Bushes,Nixons or McCains. We need to see a difference. We need to see Conservative leadership that believe in liberty, The Constitution and limited government. With an emphasis on LIMITED GOVERNMENT. The Republican base or at least this Republican is tired of the "Nanny state" this country has become. I do not need the government to protect me from myself. I am an adult. I don't need the government to reward poor life choices or poor business management. The party is in trouble not because it has failed to be moderate. The party is in trouble because it has abandoned it's Conservative principals, both economic and social.
    The country is in trouble because we have two parties in Congress that have stopped listening to America and do what they want.
    The GOP need's to wake up. America need's to wake up. If we truly want to see hope and change we need to clean the House and the Senate of dead weight.

    November 14, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. Irony

    Here are some suggestions.

    Stop lying
    Stop pretending to be christians
    Be real conservatives
    Put you country first
    Stop claiming to be "pro-life" and own up to being just "anti-Abortion"
    Get into proper sex education, as it will lower the number of unwanted pregnancies.
    Stop blaming others for the problems you create
    Stop with the warmongering, it's definitely not "pro-life"
    Stop with the anti-gay stuff
    It's Global warming, not god's way of giving us a nice warm hug
    Embrace real science, stop hiding the real data
    Stop sending talking points to hannity, Fox, and limbaugh

    Ther is a start for you!

    November 14, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  4. ken

    The GOP just want to make news along with President-elect Obama. what a bunch of loosers?

    November 14, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  5. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    GOP members might also be looking to get into the Obama camp, that is a few good men.

    November 14, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  6. Alex

    Jim a lot of people do, so SHUT UP! Your comments are not appreciated.

    I think for the Republicans to get back on track they should learn from when the Democrats were beaten back in 2000 and 2004. Take a page from their book, regroup, rethink, and reinvent.

    If they play their cards right they'll be a contender for 2012. I think their major issue is going to be recruiting younger Republicans, that is what Democrats were good at. Recruiting lots of 18 – 30 year olds. And from the blogs here and their is totally apparent.

    Us older more moderate Dems are more middle of the road and less partisan and acidic.

    November 14, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  7. ken


    We the people have spoken by electing Barack Obama our President.


    November 14, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  8. Catholic-mom-4-OBAMA

    FYI to REPUBLICANS: you will not get the Ethnic vote! WHY? Because of the people like:

    Limbaugh, Hannity, OReilly, Savage, Reagan, etc., and 'Faux News' all they do is spew hate, lies, fear and division.......... we the PEOPLE, WILL REJECT your vile politics!

    Republicans do not get it! They hate-monger, they lie, they divide our Nation.......question our Patriotism.........and ask for our VOTE! Idiots.


    November 14, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  9. Justin from New Haven, CT

    SC GOP changes, they let one black person get a position within it.

    November 14, 2008 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  10. Michael

    These guys are so completly clueless that it's laughable. I think the "core" Republican arguements are out of synch with a lot important voter groups such as independents and young people. People are starting to recognize that the wedge issues that the Repubs have relied on are just that.....wedge issues......and they have little to do with addressing the domestic and global challenges we face in the 21st century. Add to this that the "voodoo economics" of the neo-cons.....that say deficits are not a problem as long as taxes are not raised.....are now being recognized as a huge problem for this country. Unfortunately, the right wing nut idealogues don't see that they need to change or they will be frozen out for years to come.

    November 14, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  11. paul (staunch Moderate)

    The only strategy that failed the GOP was being too far to the right, to the exclusion of many, many people. If you folks don't get a clue here that the majority of the country is fed up with extremism you are bound to fail again and again, ad nauseum. Bear in mind we don't want extremism to the left either. Perhaps just some plain old Common Sense in finally in order.

    November 14, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  12. It's healthcare not welfare (stupid)

    I think we can find a spot for Hillary thats what (we) Democrats do we forgive each other , let's roll up our sleeve and get this economy moving forward, If you are ready then type YES WE CAN at the bottom of your comments until January 20, 2009

    Let's Go


    November 14, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  13. Dumb

    Draft Joe The Plumber.

    November 14, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  14. Linda Cole

    Now this is a very smart & great Obama appointment –HiIlary Cinton as Secretary of State! She's earned this with her hard work and intelligence. She can make all Americans proud of her great work that she already has done (where all all those pooh, pooh "foolish, greedy, jealous" mostly white male Republican & not very intelligent senators who booed her with her health care plans back in 1993? Some are no longer in the Senate for sure...a few are in jail, more need to be. ) Hillary is the best choice for Secretary of state, period. . . This is a very smart choice for Obama. I hope that Hillary accepts this challenge. . .She can handle it, BIG Time to the benefit of all Americans.

    November 14, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  15. KEITH

    Wonder if he has the backing of Rove and Gingrich???

    The GOP has to start all over and It ain't gonna happen with Failin Palin at the helm. She should be arrested for hijacking the party. Not one bit of substance to her....just reads the GOP mantra. I think the people have spoken

    Get real GOP and stop the divisive and misleading garbage that cost you in the first place.!!

    November 14, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  16. Frann Altman in CA

    I beg to differ with Chairman Dawson. The RepParty was beaten the moment John McCain put Sarah Palin on the ticket. She continually punctuated that mistake throughout the campaign, both by what she said and what she didn't say when she needed to show leadership.

    There are really smart, critical thinking Republican. They just were not on the ticket.. It takes more than getting energized to go the distance and run this country.

    I was excited by the spirit of President Elect Obama, but I voted for him because of his intelligence, integrity, coolness under fire and education/experience in crafting a better plan and running a better race.

    November 14, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  17. nyc homeless conservative

    who cares about GOP!


    2010 wil regain many seats and be back in control in 2012.Why?
    dems will bankrupt USA.
    They will articulate what Mccain could not.That dems were responsible for Fannie Mae mess!!
    Do Not get to comfortable!!!

    November 14, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  18. angie

    as the right party child of god, i was very a shame of the party you run with palin,she need to go back to school, pre- Ronal Ragon is unhappy

    November 14, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  19. G.R.I.T - Girl Raised in the South

    Well, first you need to find some open-mined, tolerant leadership. Some intelligence, because contrary to what so many in the GOP seem to think, intelligence is very important in our leaders. Some empathy and respect for those Americans who work their butts off to fill the wallets of their CEOs. Some religious and racial tolerance would be nice because, contrary to what so many in the GOP seem to think, not all Americans are Christian or practice the same type of Christianity that the religious right does. Reaching out to African- and Hispanic-Americans is not the same as really understanding and sympathizing and working to make things better for these groups. Somehow I don't see this "garrulous Southerner" really revamping and recreating the Republican Party. As for values, give me a break, please. Values should be legislated in the home, not by the government.

    November 14, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  20. Chris in Va.

    Even with computers and cell phones until you drop your 20th century attitudes and join the PEOPLE of the United states and drop the fear ,hate, and divisiveness platforms and come up with an actual plan to help the PEOPLE of the United States you will be, as now, irrelevant.

    November 14, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  21. vahe

    big change of crooks

    November 14, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  22. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    “Values” aren't the proper business of government, and until the GOP realises that it's going to remain the party of bigoted busybodies who aren't happy unless they're disapproving of someone else's lifestyle and trying to ram their prejudices down everyone else's throats.

    November 14, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  23. anyonmous

    be fair youve lost republican give nit up already

    November 14, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  24. Eric

    I always find it so interesting how libs who are supposed to be "tolerant" are the most intolerant and "acidic" folks on the planet.

    We need two parties and different points of view to govern effectively, the GOP needs to get back to its roots of limited government and personal responsibility and they will gain ground in the future. And the DNC needs to start supporting moderates- the left wing of the Dems has WAY too much power!

    Americans want results and both parties work together to acheive success. If we cannot play nice in the sandbox together we will never acheive the goals we have set forth.

    I am sick to death of the name calling and divisiveness on both parties parts it is absolutely disgusting. We need to be the change!

    November 14, 2008 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  25. reginald smith fairfax va

    THE ONLY WAY THE gop can become the majority party again is to stop being racist and stop being rush limbaugh and hannity cultist all this tuff about economy/ big government /morals is small compared to bigotry and recognizing bigotry and speaking out against it. that will not happen becasue there leader is rush limbaugh and they dont dare make him mad !!!!!!!!!!!!! i am conservative and i am an american who happens to be black but i dont want to go in your house or belong to your party if you dont like me. there is not one republican who spoke out against sarah palin as she incited the white supremsist to come out of hiding with her rhetoric.

    November 14, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
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