Friday, December 12, 2008

Audio: My Exclusive Interview with Chip Saltsman

I had the opportunity to interview candidate for the RNC Chairman Chip Saltsman this afternoon by telephone. The audio is posted above and I apologize for the low quality. The Tolbert Report has a limited budget but you should still be able to still hear it fairly well.

Saltsman told me that the reason he decided to jump into this race is that he really believes that the Republican Party is at a strategic crossroads right now. We have experienced a couple bad election cycles and he feels he has the unique leadership, experience, and vision to reverse this trend.

I asked Chip to discuss his “Republican Plan for Victory” (which I highly recommend reading.) Chip said this plan does not include every ingredient of what is needed to win, it highlights the key points that we should focus on. One key principal is what Chip calls the “Blue State Plan” where the party focuses on every state. He plans to sit down with every state chairman and committee member and asked them what they need to be successful in 2010. Chip said that he believes recent history has shown that the every good thing that has happened with the party originated at the state level and that the party has achieved the most success within state governments not the federal government. He said that he believes the party should get “back to basics; back to the states.”

I brought up the negative demographic shift among younger voters that Republicans experienced in the most recent election cycle and asked him how the Party can reverse this trend. Chip said he feels that part of where we failed was in our ability to communicate with younger voters, which is an area where the Obama campaign excelled. Younger voters get most of their information online from their laptops and we need to develop our technology to reach this group. He also discussed the need for the RNC to not merely respond to what the Democrats did successfully with their use of technology but to leapfrog them and be a part of the next new thing. One tool the Obama campaign used that he would like to see the Republicans develop is software called Houdini, which allowed the campaign to know who had already early voted and then target those who had not yet voted in their GOTV efforts. Chip also pointed out that his young age (he is 40) would help him relate to the younger generation. He said it is important that the chairman help take the “members only” sign off the door and instead put out the welcome mat.

We also discussed some of the stories written about him this week on the blogs such as Town Hall and the American Speculator blog which reported that he was distancing himself from Mike Huckabee. Saltsman served as the campaign manager for Huckabee for President. Saltsman said that he felt those bloggers “were trying to stir the pot” to generate traffic for their site. He said that he is very good friends with Gov. Huckabee and does not see that ever changing. He is proud of the job he did as Huckabee’s campaign manager. The point he was trying to make earlier this week was that while that is an imporant part of his resume, it is not the only part. He has also done a number of other things as well such as serving as the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party in 2000 which helped defeat Al Gore on his home turf.

He also said that he feels the party needs to be “less about personality and more about policy.” We need to return to our conservative principles of “lower taxes, individual freedom and less government” and our actions need to be consistent with this message as we work to reduce the size of government not increase it. He said that we need to be careful to continue to stand firm on the issues of life and traditional marriage.

I asked Chip how he goes about winning the majority of votes of the 168 members of the Republican National Committee and how his supporters can help him. He said that he has been traveling around and has meet personally with 35 members of the committee, that he had spoken by phone with around 90 members, and that he had sent messages or emails to the everyone else. He said his supporters can assist by contacting their own state party chairman, national committeeman, and national committeewoman as these are the people who will be electing the next chairman.

Finally, I asked Chip perhaps one my more important questions, who he thinks will win the upcoming college football BCS Championship Game between Florida and Oklahoma. He confessed that as painful as it was for a Tennessee Vols fan to admit, he thinks Florida is "the best team in the country right now" and will win the whole thing.

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