Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reading Wants Into An Endorsement

It is extremely rare that I disagree with my friend Terry Frank, and on those few occasions that I do so, it is with the utmost respect for everything that she has done and is doing to advance the conservative movement in East Tennessee and across the State. I must respectfully differ with Terry on her post yesterday regarding the joint appearance of former U.S. Senator Bill Frist and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey along with former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman to endorse and promote Saltsman's candidacy for Chairman of the Republican National Committee. I think Terry has read way too much into the joint press conference, more than was actually being said.

Terry wrote:

Bill Frist wants to be President.

Speaker Ramsey wants to be Governor.

And Chip Saltsman wants to be RNC Chairman.

It’s an orgy with suits on. Word to all from the grassroots in true southern slang: WE AIN’T NO STEPPIN’ STONES!

Let us break down the wants here. First, Bill Frist wants to be President: While there is little question that he wants to be President, want alone does not a President make, and Frist is unlikely to be able to wrest the 2012 nomination away from someone more conservative. Barack Obama's election has virtually guaranteed a rightward move by the GOP in 2012 after the McCain debacle. If Frist is looking for anything, it is to be elected Governor in 2010. That is a goal that is so realistic that there is no one inside the party that I have spoken with who does not believe that the Gubernatorial nomination is Frist's for the asking. Would I prefer someone more conservative? Absolutely! However, in a primary race between Bill Haslam and Bill Frist, I know who I'm voting for, and it isn't Haslam. I strongly suspect that there are other conservatives throughout the State who feel the same way.

Bill Frist will never be President, and he likely knows that in the back of his mind. While it didn't hurt his Gubernatorial chances in the least to endorse Chip Saltsman's RNC bid, it probably did nothing to help him, either. Frist does not need to "ride" Chip Saltsman politically in order to be our next Governor.

Ramsey wants to be Governor: The desire is present, certainly, but one thing that strikes me about Ron Ramsey in my few encounters with him is that he is a realist. He is very well aware that in a race between he and Frist, or himself, Bill Frist, and Bill Haslam that he is the longshot, because Haslam will always have vastly more money, and Frist already has the Statewide name recognition needed to be elected Governor. If Ron Ramsey does run in 2010 and Bill Frist is in the field, Ramsey will likely be running with a view to expanding his name recognition for a future race. Appearing to endorse Saltsman does nothing one way or the other to Ron Ramsey's chances for higher office. (For the record, in a primary between Frist, Haslam, and Ramsey, my vote goes to Ramsey regardless of what I think the outcome would be).

The real likelyhood here is that Tennessee is one of the few States to see significant Republican gains on November 4th, and there is a certain ascendancy of Tennessee's power within the national party as a result. Ron Ramsey, Bill Frist, and anyone else in this State who is a Republican would likely rather see a Tennessean running the national party.

Chip Saltsman wants to be RNC Chairman: We know this, he tells us so. However, Terry Frank and others seem to believe that Saltsman "threw Mike Huckabee under the bus" with his recent comments. What everyone seems to be forgetting is that Saltsman is running for National Chairman of the party, and in that role he cannot be seen to favor one candidate or potential candidate over another before the 2012 nominating process begins or while that process is underway. Mike Huckabee is aware of that reality as well-and he continues to endorse Chip Saltsman for Republican National Chairman.

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