Recent electoral wins have pulled the Republican Party out of a tailspin that started at the height of its power in 1994, but it will be well-selected local candidates, more than the national party, that drives the agenda in November’s mid-term elections.
So says Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Most political pundits expect the GOP to pick up many House and Senate seats in the fall as part of a backlash against the incumbent Democrats and frustration over the weak economy and high unemployment.
“This fall I think you’ll see much more reliance on the candidates carrying the water in their states,” rather than the national party apparatus, Steele said during a lively exchange with students at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
In victories such as the recent upset win by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, “we have trusted the candidates to shape the ground game and the campaigns and the messages,” Steele said. Brown was elected to Ted Kennedy’s old U.S. Senate seat in January, a victory that surprised the Democratic Party and deprived them of the 60-seat supermajority needed to pass legislation over Republican procedural hurdles.
Steele said letting candidates shape their own campaign and message took advantage of populist sentiment at work across the United States.