How RNC chairman candidates say they’ll climb out of the $20 million hole

Jonathan Strong Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.
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“It will all come down to money,” said Reince Priebus, Wisconsin GOP chair and candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee at the debate sponsored by The Daily Caller and Americans for Tax Reform Monday.

In terms of the RNC’s next two years, he’s right. Facing $20 million in debt, raising enough cash for the 2012 presidential campaign will haunt the next chairman.

It has also been current Chairman Michael Steele’s core weakness, his critics say. Practically facing a boycott from large, wealthy donors who didn’t trust his stewardship, the RNC raised most of its money from expensive direct mail.

In Monday’s debate and in interviews afterwards, the candidates offered some specifics about why they’re the ones best positioned to raise big bucks for the GOP.

Reince Priebus

The frontrunner in the campaign, Priebus said he could raise money by outworking the other candidates.

“The next chairman is needs to be sitting in that office for five or six hours every day, making major donor calls, making major donor visits, literally working like an absolute dog for the next two years,” Priebus said.

He also pointed to his record reducing the Wisconsin GOP’s debt.

Maria Cino

Cino, currently a lobbyist for Pfizer with a long resume of top Republican jobs, pointed to her experience as the reason she would be best at dialing for dollars.

“Trust and confidence. I have worked with these major donors for the last ten years. In 2000, 2004 and obviously the 2008 convention. They know me, they trust me. I have delivered on a budget every time I have run a program or the RNC. I have left the committee in the black, and I have always worked very, very closely with the major donors, making them feel a part of the RNC because they are, in fact, our foundation,” Cino said in a brief interview after the debate.

Saul Anuzis

Anuzis, the Michigan GOP chair, pointed to his state party’s success with major donors.

“Michigan probably had one of the largest major donor programs in the country. Right now we have over 100 members that give $30,000 or more,” he said in a brief interview.

Anuzis also said during the debate he’s already started contacting major donors to hear what went wrong over the last two years.

A “playbook” issued by Anuzis offers a seven point plan that includes restructuring the National Finance Committee and “tightly” controlling the costs of fundraising.

Ann Wagner

Wagner, a former ambassador to Luxembourg and once co-chairman of the RNC, said she already had a fundraiser “network” in place and pointed to the dollar amounts raised by the RNC during her tenure.

“I’ve done it before. When I was co-chairman of the RNC during the 2002 cycle we raised $284 million, during the 2004 [cycle] we raised $392 million,” Wagner said in a brief interview after the debate.

She also said she would offer a “plan for victory” to demonstrate to major donors their generous gifts would be well spent.

“I have a network. I’m going to put a plan together, a plan for victory that will lay out to them in a business way that shows them I will be a wise, good steward of their investment into the Republican party,” Wagner said.

Michael Steele

As the incumbent, Steele did not offer much in the way of how he would change the fundraising strategy, instead defending his record and the amount raised.

One thing he did say is that when GOP leaders in Washington intervene in primaries across the country, that hurts donations because it upsets local Republican activists. Steele vowed not to interfere in primaries.