Perry – Barbour and Resurgent Republic

Voters facing a struggling economy under the Bush presidency ushered in a new young Democratic President. Republicans wandered in the minority in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Democrats promoted policies of socialized healthcare, reducing the military, and liberal tax and spend policies. The year was 1993 and Republicans desperately needed leadership to deliver them from infighting and defeat.

That year a Republican from Mississippi named Haley Barbour moved into a new office at 310 First Street Southeast in Washington DC: office of the Republican National Committee Chairman.

In and essay for The Ripon Forum in February 2007, Barbour described what he did next: “From my first day as Chairman of the RNC, I was determined to restore the Republican Party to its rightful position as the ‘party of ideas.’ One of the first things I did at the RNC in 1993 was to send out a letter to 280,000 Republican leaders and donors. We specifically told the recipients ‘Don’t send money.’ Instead, we asked them to complete a long questionnaire that seriously explored various options on critical public policy issues. It took about an hour to complete the survey, yet more than 80,000 took the time to do just that. It was a powerful affirmation of how central ideas are to political participation and involvement.”

Barbour used those results to launch the National Policy Forum – a center-right idea factory to help the Republican Party regain its status as the party of ideas. NPF conducted a “Listening to America” tour with 70 sessions in communities across the country. Louis Zickar explained in the December 2006 of The Ripon Forum that the policies discussed in the heartland were the same NPF were discussing on Capitol Hill and “the objective of the tour was not just to promote the GOP. It was also to promote ideas.”

Last week, former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and pollster Whit Ayers launched Resurgent Republic, a new Republican ideas factory of academics, pollsters and strategists. Haley Barbour has a head seat at the table, joined by former National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen, former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Bill Paxon, New Orleans based presidential consultant and advisor Mary Matalin, and others.

Leaders in the polling division of this new policy group include Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group which did polling for Barbour’s successful 2003 and 2007 campaigns for governor, and Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies which provided polling services for Senator Roger Wicker’s successful 2008 statewide campaign.

Barbour, Gillespie, Matalin, Goeas, Bolger: they know how conservatives can win and it appears to be based on two Barbour maxims from his work in the Reagan Administration: 1) good policy is good politics and 2) be for what you’re for.

The group’s first polling analyses focused on the economy, federal budget, and energy issues. The results show America remains a center-right country, independents are responding to Republican budget messages, and “on the overall philosophy of government and on national security, Republicans show signs of gaining ground.”

Brian Perry
Madison County Journal