RNC Debate Recap

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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On Monday, the candidates for Chairman of the Republican National Committee face off in a debate hosted by The Daily Caller’s own Tucker Carlson and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. TheDC will be there live blogging it, as the five candidates answer questions submitted by readers on the RNC Debate website and on Twitter.

Check out TheDC for more RNC Debate coverage, including a live video feed of the debate, as well as profiles of each of the candidates: current Chairman Michael Steele, Maria Cino, Reince Priebus, Saul Anuzis, and Ann Wagner. Gentry Collins announced Sunday that he was dropping out of the race, and will therefore not participate in the debate.

3:51 pm — Some reactions in the aftermath of the debate:

Maria Cino’s supporters on the committee reiterate their endorsements of her.

Ed Cox, Chairman of the New York Republican Party, said in a statement: ““Maria Cino showed today exactly why she should be the next Republican National Committee Chairman.  Not only does Maria share the conservative ideals important to the committee and Republicans nationwide, but Maria is also the most experienced leader in the field.  Throughout her career and this campaign, Maria has distinguished herself as someone who is fully committed, no-nonsense and ready to manage people and resources to rebuild the RNC.  She has earned the respect of committee members, elected officials, activists and operatives nationwide for her management ability.  Maria’s detailed plans to strengthen fundraising, restore accountability and re-establish our grassroots organizing are exactly what the RNC needs to win in 2011, 2012 and beyond.”

Priscilla Rakestraw, the Delaware National Committeewoman who is the longest serving RNC member, also praised Cino.

“Beyond Maria’s obvious conservative credentials, Maria displayed the charisma, poise and character we need as our party’s next Chairman.  Further, the RNC is in desperate need of proven leadership from someone who has the unquestioned trust of our donors.  This is yet another important reason why I’m supporting Maria Cino.  Maria has established that trust.

“Over the years, I’ve worked with more chairmen than anyone on the committee – and I know what it takes to be an outstanding chairman. And Maria Cino has it.  I’m hopeful my fellow committee members will give thoughtful consideration to what they saw today and reach the same conclusion I did weeks ago:  Maria Cino is the most experienced and qualified candidate to serve as our next Chairman, hands down.”

Many of the candidates noted the importance of reaching out to Hispanics and African-Americans as a means of expanding the Republican Party. Th Hispanic Leadership Fund president Mario H. Lopez, reacting to the debate, affirmed the importance of expanding the party, and, according to a press release, “urges all leaders to consider Hispanic population increases in the swing presidential battleground states of Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada.”

2:33 pm — Closing Statements

Priebus: “This election is about choices…I’m not running against anybody, I’m running for RNC Chairman at a different time, in different circumstances, in a time of different needs…As I said many times, we learned how to work with the conservative movement…but if God blesses me to be the Chairman of this party, all of us are going to have to work as a team to save our country, to save our party, and to take back the White House.”

Steele: “This closing is to the members of the Republican National Committee. Thank you for letting me serve as your Chairman for the past two years. Thank you for entrusting me iwth the power to take risks, for you…If you want more of that, if you wnat to do more of that, if you want to be strong, independent, and engaged state parties, you don’t need a top down RNC, cause I’m not a top down person as you know…and as National Chairman, that is my promise…My record speaks for itself…We can do more, and we will do it better.”

Cino: “I have successfully done this job before…My past experience has given me the skills and the foundation to build the party…I walk into the RNC with no on the job training necessary.”

Anuzis: “I’m a movement conservative who believe ideas have consequences and principles matter…I think the administrative skills…the political skills…the fundraising skills…and I’m also probably one of the more technologically advanced members…and probably most importantly, that I am a member.”

Wagner: “I’m the daughter of small business owners who’s been working since I was probably eleven years old. I’ve been living my conservative values for probably my entire life…My experience is rooted in the heartland of America, I’m a suburban mother of three…and whose American dream is all about serving her country…I think we have an opportunity here to change course.”

2:32 pm — Question for Anuzis: How will you target traditionally blue states?

“I think we have a tremendous opportunity…God, guns and guts Republicans…as long as we appeal to them on conservative values, I think we can win.”

2:32 pm –Question for Priebus: Why do we need an RNC?

Priebus: I think we can drive the ground game very well…that does not mean that we should not play well in the sandbox with everyone.”

Question for Steele: At times you have defended your record of criticism saying that your critics are attacking you because you are African American. Is that true?

No, he said, though some have interpreted it that way. “My record stands for itself. We won.”

Despite being the underdog, Steele seems to get more applause from the audience than anyone else.

Question for Maria Cino: “Did you lobby for Obamacare, and if so, why?”

She listed a variety of principles that she did lobby for, then summed up: “No, I did not. I worked for the Republican principles.” The response seems somewhat inadequate, with people in the audience repeating the question, “What about Obamacare?”

Favorite Book?

Priebus: Reagan Diaries

Wagner: “Probably my kitchen table,” she said, to some confusion. “Favorite book,” someone corrected. “Oh,” she said laughing, “I though it was favorite bar.”

Her favorite book is George W. Bush’s new book

Anuzis: The Law

Cino: To Kill a Mockingbird

Steele: War and Peace…”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he quoted, to laughter. [Note: this is actually a quote from A Tale of Two Cities, not War and Peace].

Can Sarah Palin win a general election?

Yes, all around.

How many guns do you own?

Cino: none.

Steele: none.

Priebus: 5

Wagner: more than 16.

Anuzis: “I’m very inadequate at 4.

2:23 pm — Other than Ronald Reagan, who is your political hero?

Priebus: Abraham Lincoln

Wagner: General John Ashcroft is my political hero, he brought me into the party.

Anuzis: Ludwig von Mises of FreedomWorks

Steele: Frederick Douglas

2:23 pm — Everyone agrees, Republican primaries should be limited to Republicans.

Question: “The late and unlamented governor of Florida Charlie Christie– Crist. Crist Crist Crist–received money from Republicans then went on to run as an independent…Do you support the incorporation of this party unity resolution?”

Yes, all around.

2:21 pm — Lightning Round.

2:15 pm — What would you do to help out College Republicans and Young Republicans with messaging and recruiting?

Anuzis: “I think we have to understand the technology that these kids are using these days…you actually have to be part of it and live it”

“I think we have to be very active…this is not only the future of the party, this is the party today.”

Cino: Citing Marco Rubio and Kristi Noem, Cino said “I would look at using those young new leaders to help us to appeal to new young voters. I would also make sure our state victory plans have a component dealing with new young voters…Additionally, I would use our young leaders to help us recruit candidates. We need to have a bench…Finally,…we need to be able to communicate with our young voters…social networking…what the next generation of that communication is.”

Steele: Said that the RNC made a significant effort to use that new technology. “That is the first step of many…I would encourage young voters to run for National Committeeman of your state party…get your fingers here at the table, and help shape the direction of the party…every effort we have made at the RNC has been towards engaging…young voters to have a seat at this table and to help shape the direction and the future of this party.”

“Some of us sooner or later are going to need to retire, probably sooner than later than some,” he said, to some laughter.

Priebus: “You need to engage young people, you need to bring them into the fold…At the end of the day, it’s all about engaging young people and bringing them in…that’s how I got involved.”

Wagner: “The youth of this nation and of this party are not the future of this party, they are the heart of our party.”

“The youth of our party run our party, they run our elections…I’m 48 years old, I was old in this last election cycle…and I have a great idea to use new technology and reach and have a conversation with the young people.”

She spoke of developing “the virtual precinct”…you ought to be messaging them, you ought to be turning them out.

2:08 pm –The new congress was elected on cutting spending. Do you think they will live up to that, and where will they cut from?

Wagner: Says that we’re off to a good start, with earmarks, and with “The omnibus bill fall under it’s own weight.”

“Everything should be on the table.”

Anuzis: Spoke about the mandate, the necessity to balance the budget. “There’s across the board cuts that have to be done, I hope we never get into a situtiaon again where we’re even considering TARP or stimulus style package.”

Cino: We’ve learned from the Tea Party: “We have to be focused, we have to stick to our principles.”

“I think there has to be across the board cuts, in order for us to reduce our deficit and cut our spending.”

Steele: “I think we need to be clear here about the role that we have here as the position of chairman…You don’t do policy, and the reality of it, we don’t, in this perch. We do politics. But our responsibility is…to take to the leadership what I hear from you…what the concerns from this party…because you don’t get to sit there and decide what this policy is. But you can have an impact on the politics of the policy…Be an advocate for our senior citizens, be an advocate for up and comers out there who are just starting on their own…So that people in the grass roots understand what’s going on, and the people on the hill know what the grass roots want…you have to carry that message to them, and you have to carry that message from them, and if you get it wrong, you’ll be reminded: ‘you don’t do policy.'”

Priebus: “We expect a certain result, and I think the party does have a role in enforcing what that expectation is with our elected officials…The voters gave us a lease, they didn’t give us the keys. We have an opportunity to put this train back on the rails.” Earmarks was a good start, we need to go further, like Paul Ryan.

2:02 pm — Question: What would you do to combat voter fraud?

Priebus: I think we need to pass photo ID in all states.

Wagner: “Poll watchers are very, very important…we need to have teams of lawyers out there who we can call at a moment’s notice…It’s important that we get out there and fund these ballot integrity programs.”

Anuzis: Says that it’s especially an important issue in a state like Michigan, that can go red or blue depending on the occasion.

“It’s kind of a best practices aspect that I think we could really make a big difference.”

Cino: “I too have been involved in a lot of integrity and ballot security programs…Ballot integrity programs are important, and as Chairman, that would be on of the things I would certainly fund, starting with early training…in addition, making sure we have the attorneys…and finally, providing the resources when necessary to go to court.”

Steele: “Something that’s on the foremind of everyone…in 2009, we made an effort to coordinate much more closely with states…knowing that there are security issues that one should be concerned of.”

“So the relaity for us at a national level has to be one of coordination not dictation to the State parties…having them come to us and say this is what we need, and being able to provide that,” he said. He also mentioned the importance of having lawyers.

1:55 pm — In the past the party has had a big get-out-the-vote effort in the last 72 hours of the election. This year it was discontinued, was that a mistake?

Steele: It was not a mistake, he said, saying that it was a waste of resources to send people to different states to do this work. Instead, “the 72 hour program was developed by the states, and  we funded those directly.”

Priebus: “In the future we need a fully funded GOTV effort…the next chairman is going to be sitting in that office for 5 or 6 hours a day running through major donor lists…in order to fund these programs…But that is going to be the big challenge, whether it be technology, whether it  be GOTV, whether it be a 50 state strategy, it will all come down to money.”

Wagner: “Good programs…are nothing but words on a paper if we don’t have the money to fund them.”

Anuzis: “I think one of the most important things that we do at the Republican Party is fund that get out the vote effort…and the challenge we had this time around is that we just didn’t have enough resources.”

Cino: “Well I’m a little partial to this particular 72-hour program, because it was under my leadership that we actually implemented, funded and put out 6000 volunteers…I would make sure that a 72-hour program, which should be a 96-hour program, was reimplemented.”

Steele: “It’s a little bit frustrating to hear people talk about fully funding the programs. You’re right, we did not have a lot of volunteers out of Washington,” he said, but added that there were a lot of volunteers in each state. “200,000 volunteers on the ground…so the idea that we didn’t fully fund it is really kind of a misnomer because we did. But you know how we did it, we did it differently…we found other ways to get resources…Find me a state that didn’t have a winning election and maybe their program wasn’t fully funded. I think we won in all fifty states this year. And that’s what’s important: winning.”

Question: How would you work to incorporate new groups into the party?

Cino: Would work with these groups, and comunicate with these groups.

Steele: “It has always been about the grass roots…It has always been about reaching out. We do get a little bit comfortable with ourselves, and sometimes at the exclusion of others…some fresh faces and voices that don’t look or sound like us…but bring a wealth of new ideas to the table. We tried to do that with our coalitions department of the RNC.”

Priebus: “We need to play well in the sandbox with tea party movement, with the conservative movement…We’re not in competittion with the movement, we’re part of it…But our actions speak louder than words, we need to get out on the streets and talk to people.”

Wagner: “It is the job…of a good leader and any chairman of a state party or a national party to bring coalitions and people together to a common purpose…all with the purpose of winning elections…I love people, I love to communicate, I love to bring people to the table to talk about ideas.”

“The Tea Party Patriot movement is the reason we had such victories in 2010.”

Anuzis: “When we lose our faith with the voters, the voters have a way of figuring out a different vehicle to make their case.”

He spoke of the importance of reaching out to hispanics and African-Americans.

1:44 pm — The pro-life issue.

Anuzis: “I think that there has to be a working relationship with all of our coalitions, and particularly those that suppor the sanctity of life…when we run away from those issues, we run away from opportunities…I don’t think we should hide where we stand on those issues.”

Cino: “Work hard to build and invest in strong national and state coalitions. It’s how we win elections. It’s working with the various pro-life coalitions…I would also, as I said earlier, call for an 18 month state victory plan, and each of those states would have a coalition component.”

Steele: “Building out and establishing with the Republican National Committee a coalition component…expanding the reach of the party, expanding the voice of the party.”

Priebus: “It’s obviously something that can be very effective…We work really well with the Right to Life, I think it’s obviously paramount to our platform. I think we have a responsibility as Republicans to promote that issue.”

Wagner: “We always encouraged our candidates to talk about the life issue, and I think it’s not anything that the party should hold back from in any shape or form.”

1:37 — What does it mean to be Republican? What beliefs would it disqualify someone from being a Republican.

Wagner: “Three pillars…fiscal economic side that reigns in this spending…There’s also a pillar of national defense…And the third pillar would be of traditional values…If you can’t carry all three, I don’t think you should be serving as chairman of the national committee.

Anuzis, quoted Ronald Reagan, “If someone’s with us 80 percent to fthe time they’re probably a Republican.” “We have a platform,” he continued, “…and if a candidate, a standard bearer, someone who was going to represent our party, supported the platform at least 80 percent of the time, I would consider them a Republican”

Cino, also citing Reagan, refers to the “Three legs of the stool: protecting the family, reducing government waste and spending, and national defense.”

Steele: “This country is much bigger than we think it is some times, and it runs a lot deeper with it’s passions sometimes than we would like to believe…Everyone who comes into this party will have some problem with this platform. Your job as chairman is to help them…But we cannot be a party that sits back with a litmus test and excludes.”

Priebus: “As I said before, we’re about to walk off a fiscal cliff, and I think the RNC Chairman ought to take a chance and promote that conservative platform every chance they get to do it…if you’re pro-abortion, pro-stimulus, pro-AIG…well then guess what, you might not be a Republican.

1:33 pm — What has been the Republican Party’s biggest failure over the past ten years?

Priebus: “Not doing what we say we’re going to do.”

Wagner: “At all times, it’s the people that decide. When we get into power and we lose our way, the people have a way of…righting that wrong,” Wagner began. One of the biggest failures of the party, she said, has been “too much spending, and growth, and debt…We have got to reign in spending.”

Anuzis: “We lost our way…We stopped voting like Republicans…This is a center right nation, this is a country that believes in our conservative principles. When we act and vote like Republicans, we win. When we act and vote like Democrats, we lose,” Anuzis repeated, in what seems to be a catch phrase for him.

Cino: “Well let me spice things up a little bit. I’ll give you two. Frist, passing McCain-Feingold, that was a mistake,” Cino said, to much applause. The second thing, she added , was losing our way. “If we’ve learned anything from our friends at the Tea Party, it’s staying on message…we’ve got a second life line here, and we have to use it.”

Steele: “We stopped talking to people. We stopped trying to connect directly to people. WE stopped expanding and reaching. We are the party of Lincoln…part of our charge is to go out and grab as many of those folks as we can and make them a part of this experience.”

1:27 pm — Next question, asked by Susan B. Anthony List, about marriage, also on behalf of National Organization for Marriage. “The traditional definition of marriage unites over 80 percent of Republicans…regardless of how you see your role of chairperson, you are almost certain to be put in a position of having to defend traditional marriage to the media. What is your best thirty second defense”

Steele: “The family unit, the family concept, is an ideal that we aspire to. it is what we work towards to create a healthy environment to our kids…it is rooted in those ideas and tradition…As a party, though, we have said very clearly, that we support this ideal, that we suppor thti stradition.”

Priebus: “I don’t believe that judges can rewrite the constitution and redraft what marriage is. I think there’s a sanctity of marriage…I do belive children should grow up with one father and a mother, certainly with support, single parents it’s very hard. I don’t think anyone should be denied dignity in this discussion…but in the end, marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Wagner: “I live my marriage beliefs. I’ve been faithfully, and I guess, happily married,” Wagner said, to laughter. She went on to cite that in the passage in Missouri of an amendment to the consitution that made marriage between one man and one woman.

Anuzis: “It’s very simply both a religious and a cultural institution that is worht protecting and worth fighting for.”

Cino: “I believe in a traditional family…It’s been a part of my upbringing, and I support the Republican platform.”

Question: Did you see the victory of Christine O’Donnell over Mike Castle in Delaware as a victory or as a disaster?

Cino: “It goes to the state parties who have the power and recruit the candidates and help us elect the candidates.”

Steele: You saw … a level of activisim that was I think long overdue and welcome in this party. At the end of the day, he said,  the role of the national party is to stay out of the way of state parties.

Priebus: “I think our party ahs to mean something, I think being conservative has to mean something…I think our chairman has to be an outspoken, unabashed conservative…at the end of the day the Chairman has to support the state party nominee.”

“The state parties have the power.

Wagner: “The people decide who is going to win elections…it is the job of the Republican party to stand up for our platform, for our ideals, and to try and recruit candidates who will be true to our conservative values…but it at the end of the day, it is the people who decide, and it is our job to win elections.”

Anuzis: “I think the primaries work, and I think the voters work. The voters know who they want to voter, i think it has always been a mistake when someone comes in from above to try to decide who the nominee should be.”

“Trust the voters.”

1:09 pm — Maria Cino’s opening statement.

“Happy new year to everyone. Welcome to 2011, and to the 2012 election,” Cino began, “because the race for the presidency as already begun.”

“I’m a fundraiser–I’ve developed fundraising programs, I have the respect of major programs around the country, and I’ve raised millions of millions of dollars,” she continued.

Cino continued to list her qualifications, concluding, “heck, I’ve even run the Republican National Convention.”

…and our wifi goes out … apologies.

Saul Anuzis says he would focus on “fundraising…and everything else.”

Maria Cino emphasizes the importance of state party committees.

Michael Steele says the budget is important, as well as to “make sure we hunker down, and get the money tight, and right.”

Reince Priebus: “I think our first priority has to be and must be electing Republicans,” he said, to scattered applause. “But to do that, we need money.”

“We need unity in our party, we all know it. We need to speak to the Tea Party…all our groups.”

Ann Wagner: “The job description is really to be the standard bearer of the party…talking to new and existing coalitions out there…it’s about winning elections, it’s about winning the White House in 2012…And to do that, we’ve got to raise money.”

1:07 pm — Saul Anuzis’ opening statement.

“Today is going to be about fundraising,” he said, adding “We’ve got to raise some twenty million dollars before we can start banking for the next election.”

“I think we need someone who can make the trains run on time.”

1:05 pm — Ann Wagner starts with the first opening statement. “Ladies and gentleman, it is time for some tough love,” she began, citing the committees “loss of credibility,” and “drama.”

“I believe I offer a true new direction,” Wagner continued, and went on to list her experience.

“I believe that our best days are ahead for the Republican National Committee, and I ask you to join me in returning and restoring the RNC.”

1:01 pm — “This is a decision that affects everyone who cares about the country, the Republican Party, and the far right movement, and we thought the more transparency the better,” said ATR’s Grover Norquist, kicking off the debate.