For RNC Team, Recall is a Personal Fight

Doesn’t shock me at all from con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had with many of the team out at the RNC from time to time.

If there’s an “Ace” up Walker’s sleeve, it’s name is “Reince.”  (And Mark, and Rick, and Justin, and Kirsten, and on and on and on…)

It’s because the Wis­con­sin GOP dom­i­nates the Repub­li­can National Com­mit­tee right now. This is a time of national influ­ence for Bad­ger State conservatives—and this recall effort is a per­sonal chal­lenge not just to Scott Walker, but to Repub­li­can Party Chair­man Reince Priebus and his team at the top of RNC.

Priebus was the chair­man of the Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can Party from 2007 through 2010 while also serv­ing as the RNC’s gen­eral coun­sel. Under his lead­er­ship, the GOP took con­trol of the Wis­con­sin state­house as well as the Governor’s man­sion. Walker and Preibus are per­son­ally close, talk­ing and tex­ting fre­quently, with a friend­ship that goes back more than a decade to when Walker served in the State Assem­bly and Preibus ran unsuc­cess­fully for the State Senate.

Pol­i­tics is about per­sonal rela­tion­ships, and the Wis­con­sin ties within the RNC run deep right now. For exam­ple, RNC Polit­i­cal Direc­tor Rick Wiley served as exec­u­tive direc­tor of the state party. RNC coun­sel Jonathan Waclawski pre­vi­ously was finance direc­tor and chief coun­sel of the state party. Press Sec­re­tary Kirsten Kukowski worked as com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor of the state party. And National Field Direc­tor Jus­ton John­son was the cam­paign man­ager for Wis­con­sin Sen. Ron John­son (no rela­tion) as well as polit­i­cal direc­tor of the state party. The august offices of the RNC are now a par­adise for Cheeseheads.

None of this is unprece­dented or improper. It’s com­mon for exec­u­tives to bring in trusted team mem­bers from their home state. But the dis­pro­por­tion­ate influ­ence of Wis­con­sin Repub­li­cans reflects how per­son­ally invested mem­bers of the RNC appa­ra­tus in this Tuesday’s recall results. This is personal—an ide­o­log­i­cal fight play­ing out on their home turf. And it shows how the national Repub­li­can Party has been uniquely well posi­tioned to push back on attempts to undo the 2010 elec­tion results, begin­ning with state Sen­ate spe­cial elec­tions in April 2011.

While Wis­con­sin is regarded as a swing state that leans Demo­c­rat in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, pro­gres­sive forces’ focus on push­ing back against the Tea Party in this par­tic­u­lar state could seem ill-timed and ill-advised in ret­ro­spect. The national party’s strong ties to Walker and knowl­edge of the state’s pol­i­tics helps account for why Demo­c­ra­tic efforts, first to stop Walker’s poli­cies and then to push him from office, have been unsuc­cess­ful to date despite the governor’s extra­or­di­nar­ily polar­iz­ing pres­ence. This RNC team knows Wis­con­sin cold and has helped direct national resources to what might have been oth­er­wise a remote local fight in 2015.

As some­one put it on Face­book the other day; Democ­rats had to beg, plea, peti­tion drive, and shame their national party chair­woman to get involved in the Walker Recall.  Repub­li­cans, on the other hand, just had to call an old friend.

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