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Clear the air
MSGOP misstep leads to scrutiny, must be limited and rectified

by Frank Corder
A relatively small number of people pay close attention to the inner workings of political party politics in Mississippi. Oh, they may read a headline from time to time and think they know the skinny but until you do a little digging, ruffle a few feathers and engage in the game you really don’t know what goes on behind the scenes – and even then things aren’t always as they seem.

This week our friends over at Cottonmouth, the state’s main liberal blog, ran with a story claiming that the communications director at the Mississippi Republican Party had been fired and likening the GOP state chairman to Scrooge as we approach Christmas.

The timing was convenient as yet another legislative elected official was switching parties from D to R, providing a handy distraction from the events of the day.

It does appear that Brett Kittredge, the MSGOP communications director, will be moving on from the party by the end of the year. But was he fired or was this, as the party says, a transition? And why should it matter to you?

YallPolitics called the MSGOP office when the report surfaced. As expected, the same communications director supposedly fired answered the phone. Conventional wisdom has it that if someone were fired they wouldn’t still be answering the phones the next day.

After speaking with officials within the party, it seems ongoing discussions have been taking place over the past few months regarding staffing needs based on the party’s focus and financial realities.

But while the current MSGOP leadership is classifying these staff changes as transitions or shifts, some upper level Republicans quietly do view Kittredge’s move as forced.

However it may be characterized, changes are coming within the MSGOP staff.

Most of us in Mississippi new media know Brett Kittredge well. His work at the helm of the former Majority in Mississippi blog is well respected and was widely read. He was, in fact, the best political analyst in the state in his heyday (old media and new media considered). During his time with the party, Brett has taken what many saw as a lackluster communications and information operation and brought it into the 21st century, sending out daily tip sheets, on-time press releases, social media blasts, and more that has been largely targeted to generate earned media in the old media landscape. The MSGOP is more connected to the people now than at any point in its history, and in large part Brett is to thank for that.

If the operation is functioning better than it ever has and the party is seemingly stable and growing, keeping Democrats on their heels and continuing to make inroads across the state, why make the changes now?

As we consider that question, other issues come to mind:

- Is the party’s administration budget thinning given that there’s not a state or federal election around the corner?
- Is there a difference in focus within the party administration and upper level Republicans?
- What other operational and/or administrative changes are being considered?

With growth comes challenges, and the Mississippi Republican Party has grown exponentially in a relatively short period of time. A few short years ago Republicans in this state could fit in a phone booth; now, it is the
Democrats that call that same phone booth home.

Republicans cannot afford to even appear to have the same dysfunctional ambivalence as Mississippi Democrats. Everything must be done above board and in order. All eyes are on conservatives, and liberals are waiting in the wings to pounce and seize on an opportunity to point out chinks in the GOP armor, just as Cottonmouth did this week.

Conservatives cannot give liberals such low hanging fruit.

If the MSGOP is to retain its place in Mississippi politics and continue to expand its brand, stability within the party itself is key. Yes, every organization has struggles and personnel issues though few are as public as
in a political party. One can certainly look at the overall improvement of state legislative majorities (through party switches and "holds" on recent backfill elections), a good (but not great) presidential cycle with holds on
the DC delegations and the general decorum among statewide officials that can be difficult to hold together with such a distinct majority and say that on balance, things are good for the MSGOP. But missteps must be limited and transparent for the edification of the public and particularly the party faithful.

How this episode was handled this week was a misstep however you choose to view it.

Now would be a good time for MSGOP party leadership to clear the air.

Posted December 13, 2012 - 3:53 pm

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