Thursday, November 13, 2008

G.O.P Jockeying Well Underway

HANAWAY: "I don't want to be and I'm not going to be."
Adds: "I don't know who is telling you this stuff, but I suspect there's some rivalry going on, and my name got tossed out there as part of it."

When Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder agreed to drop out of the race for Governor last January at Springfield's Lincoln Days, he cut a deal that would give him the power to shape the party going forward whether he won or lost his own re-election bid in November.

As leader of the Missouri G.O.P., Sen. Kit Bond authored and signed onto what's now known as the "Lincoln Day Deal" that would give Kinder the choice of the next state Republican chair.

The assumption was that if Kinder lost his re-election race, he would make himself chair. But being the only statewide Republican to survive the Democratic deluge, Kinder and his political clan were, in essence, given a two-for-one.

There was talk, if only briefly, about Kinder installing himself as Chair, while serving as Lieutenant Governor. Using the model of Mel Martinez, (who served as U.S. Senator from Florida and Republican National Committee Chair,) Kinder would be more of a figurehead of the party, and then select a strong Executive Director to enact his goals and mission.

The major drawback to that approach is that Kinder might have looked like a power-hungry dictator. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations say that Kinder is more likely to select a strong chair, in the mold of Jack Oliver, who went from Chair of the Missouri G.O.P. to RNC co-chair.

If the "Lincoln Day" plan stays intact, the likely pick will be Lloyd Smith. Smith is a longtime political operative with strong ties in Washington D.C., and has been involved in almost every recent major statewide race in Missouri. Smith would be the anti-Doug Russell. He would be a full-time, all-powerful chair, who would be immersed in day-to-day operations, all political decisions and fundraising goals. "Lloyd is his choice," says one Republican, who is allied with Kinder.

If there's tension here, it lies with Sen. Bond, who, for all intensive purposes remains the titular head of the G.O.P., no matter what kind of deal was cut at Lincoln Days. Bond's long storied history and political prowess gives him clout to exert enormous influence. But he also must have his own interest in mind.

Sources say if Sen. Kit Bond had his way, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway would be the next Chair of the Missouri G.O.P. Despite her call to the KY3 Political Notebook Thursday morning denying any interest in the position, two top Republican sources say that Hanaway was in the running to be G.O.P. Chair. Hanaway strongly denied that assertion in a follow-up interview later Thursday afternoon.

"I would not give up my role as U.S. Attorney role to be Chair. That's an unpaid position," Hanaway said. "I don't want to be (chair), and I'm not going to be," she added.

What's unclear is if Smith has already been chosen as chair, and if Hanaway's call was in reaction to a decision that is known to only a very close-knit circle of the state's top political players. With President-elect Barack Obama just a few months away from taking office, Hanaway's days as U.S. Attorney are likely limited. "Almost certainly, I will not be (retained)," Hanaway said. "My next career move is to be gainfully employed in the private sector world, practicing law."

One source said that Hanaway "wanted the job, to get back into the game." Another source confirmed that Hanaway's name was mentioned in discussions. But some top Republicans included in those discussions didn't think that Hanaway would be the best pick at a time when the G.O.P. needs a full-time player. "We're rebuilding our party. We've got to redefine ourselves from the ground up, and we need someone who is going to be there full-time," said one Republican, who spoke to The Notebook only on the condition of anonymity. "We're redefining how the party works."

Hanaway's response: "I'm in the business of putting bad guys in jail, and not in the business of politics. I'm so far out of the political world right now. I don't know who is telling you this stuff, but I suspect there's some rivalry going on, and my name got tossed out there as part of it."

Whether or not Hanaway was in or out, the assumption now is that Bond is running for re-election in 2010. You don't need to wonder if the Bond clan is worried about their political future. You just need to understand the polls that show basically a dead-heat between Bond and Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan in a potential match-up. A lot can change in two years, but Democrats have won the last two big statewide races (U.S. Senate in '06, Governor '08). Why couldn't they beat Bond in the right environment? "Bond is very concerned about 2010. They'd be stupid not to be," said one Jefferson City Republican. "And (the Dems) will no doubt put up Robin."

That's why these sources believe Hanaway was in the picture. But because Smith has had ties to many candidates, Bond could well be satisfied with him. But Smith's top priority coming in would be making sure Bond gets re-elected in 2010.

If the Chair ends up being a strong pick (Smith), the Executive Director role will likely be a weaker position. That person would more likely serve as a chief of staff to the Chair, making sure what the Chair orders gets done.

There are several names being floated for that position, but they are too sensitive and fluid to report at this point. The real question is if the Executive Director will be someone with statewide name recognition in political circles. If the weaker model is employed, it's probably not necessary. Another question: If Kinder gets the Chair pick, does Bond still pull weight for the Executive Director selection?

We should know the answers to some of these questions soon. The Chair position is likely to be announced first, and sources say that choice will probably be announced before the Thanksgiving holiday.

No comments: