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.