Interview With Ron Weiser - Sitting Chairman of the MIGOP
With the 2011 MIGOP State Convention right around the corner, so to speak, the candidates for the various state party offices have been touring the various county and regional events relentlessly in order to engage Convention Delegates and attempt to secure their votes. But on Wednesday afternoon I sat down with Ron Weiser, outgoing Chairman of the MIGOP, to discuss his thoughts on the 2010 elections, the upcoming 2012 election cycle, and some other observations.
Kevin: Good afternoon, Ron. I understand it's been a busy week for you.
Ron: I've actually been busy since the RNC Winter Conference. I was asked by Chairman Priebus to co-chair the financial transition team until April 1st. I'm working with a couple of former finance chairs and some prominent fundraisers. Our goal is to raise at least $400 million to finance the 2012 presidential campaign.
Much of our success last year in some close congressional races was because RNC was providing the only ground game in those races. I was talking with Nick Harris, who's leading the operations transition team, and he told me that the five gubernatorial races we lost by less than one percent of the vote, we lost because of the lack of an organized and funded ground game.
Kevin: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment during your tenure as MIGOP Chairman? What do you consider your biggest shortfall?
Ron: Well, obviously the victories in our state elections last year. We flipped two congressional seats, swept the statewide executive and educational races, took back the state supreme court, put a super-majority in the state senate, and went from a 24-seat minority to a 16-seat majority in the state house. I am honored and privileged to have been the CEO of that campaign. We put together an extraordinary ground game that was 99.9% volunteers. Our Fix Michigan Network out-called all but one other state, and they out-knocked every state.
As far as shortfalls go, I really wish that I would have had the opportunity to spend more time in the field; I don't think that I spent enough time there. I saw my job as keeping the entire organization focused on our mission, which was to win this state back so that our grandchildren's grandchildren will have the chance at the kind of life we enjoy. But I had a wonderful co-chair and great deputy chairs who got out in the field, built partnerships with the tea party leadership, and put together the grassroots ground game we needed to win.
Kevin: What's your impression of the rise of the tea party movement and its impact on Republican Party politics?
Ron: I think that they re-energized the grassroots. They got new people involved in the political process, and reinvigorated some people that have been here awhile. I see them as an independent caucus within the MIGOP, and they're a very valuable caucus. I did my best to reach out to them and make them feel welcome.
Kevin: But some of them weren't happy with what happened at last year's convention.
Ron: Now I'm not defending what went wrong back in August. I had opted to go frugal and use as much money as possible toward winning races in November. Because of that, we made some mistakes, and we didn't get people in fast enough. But given the choice between spending an extra couple of thousand dollars and having a better convention, or spending that money on having a few more wins in November, I think November was more important.
Kevin: What are your thoughts on the Independence Caucus of Michigan, which is a PAC allied with the Michigan Tea Party Patriot Alliance?
Ron: I think that what they do is great, but their long-term success is going to be determined by the voters.
Kevin: The tea party movement is, so far as I know, aware that any substantive success politically has to be accomplished within the framework of the Republican Party. But many have a running problem with what they view as "moderates" or "centrists" -- RINOs if you will -- still in positions of control and influence within the GOP, whether as elected officials or as party officers. How do you think that should be constructively addressed?
Ron: Well, voters make the choices, and elected officials represent the wishes of their districts. If you want to do something to put conservatives on the ballot, then you have to get involved in the primaries. Ronald Reagan was who inspired me to get involved in politics, and he had two principles - the Eleventh Commandment and the 4/5 Rule - that should always apply.
Kevin: 2012 is the year we get our next chance to "pink slip" Senator Debbie Stabenow. I've heard somewhere in the immediate vicinity of a half-dozen names circulating as potential Republican challengers. Do you have any thoughts on who should be that challenger?
Ron: Whoever wins the primary. Any candidate who's qualified should get into the primary, and let the primary voters sort it out.
Kevin: Of the nineteen candidates who are considered potential contenders, are you willing to share any thoughts on who you think might be a solid choice to run against President Obama?
Ron: Again, whoever wins the primary. But I'll tell you this, If the Republicans hang on to Michigan in the Electoral College, then we're going to find that President Obama will have a very tough time getting re-elected. Michigan will be important.
Here's what I mean by this. Back in 2000, the RNC and then-Governor Bush made a few visits to Michigan during the general campaign. Because of that, then-Vice President Gore and the DNC had to make some visits to counter us. And that kept Democrat resources out of places like Ohio and Florida.
Kevin: Yeah, every time I think about a "President Al Gore" response to 9/11, it just doesn't look pretty.
Ron: No, it doesn't. And I'll tell you what, President Bush doesn't get anywhere near the credit he deserves for keeping this country safe after that day. I was his Ambassador to Slovakia, and I had station chiefs and high-ranking military officers reporting to me. I know the number of times that terrorist attacks targeting American citizens and American soil were stopped because of President Bush's policy decisions.
In that position, I was there to bring that nation into NATO and cement the growth of liberty there, I saw a lot of the garbage that socialist policies and governments create. My entire family's still in Michigan, and I don't want that here.
Kevin: A hot topic last week (and still being talked about this week) has been Governor Snyder's very first State of the State address, delivered this past Wednesday. How concerned are you about the statement from Mark Brewer that about 80% of Gov. Snyder's address could have been delivered by a Democrat?
Ron: I didn't listen in to what Mark Brewer had to say. Brewer creates controversy because it gets him attention. And that's the reason that I didn't mention his name on the campaign trail - I think I might have done it once by accident - and didn't make any joint appearances with him; he doesn't deserve the coverage. He's a paid political operative, essentially a political hack with no credibility.
Kevin: So what are your thoughts about him potentially losing the MDP Chair position to Jocelyn Benson this weekend?
Ron: I hope he wins and stays in office; as far as MIGOP is concerned, he's the gift that keeps on giving.
Kevin: The State of the Union address, President Obama's second, was delivered last night. Any reaction or thoughts on this?
Ron: The guy's a great orator, I'll give him that. And he can raise money better than anyone else I've seen recently; that was how he bought his election. He said some nice platitudes, but he has the most liberal agenda I've ever seen, way too left. He's done more spending and created a bigger deficit than I can ever remember, and I just wasn't impressed by his message.
Kevin: Do you have any thoughts on the response from Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), the Chairman of the House Budget Committee?
Ron: Congressman Ryan has a plan, and he unveiled it months ago. He knows that the people want fiscal responsibility and that's why the Republicans won last November. But now the Republicans have to deliver on their promises. We can't burden generations that haven't even been born yet with the bill for our spending now.
Kevin: Thank you very much for your time, sir. It's been a pleasure talking with you. I'll see you at convention.
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