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October 20, 2007
Martinez Quits Part Time Job as GOP Chairman
A few days after the election debacle last year, George Bush named a sitting Senator Chairman of the Republican Party. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) was expected to dabble in party politics while holding down a full time job in the Senate.
During Martinez's tenure as General Chairman, fewer people are identifying themselves as Republicans, and such arcane activities as candidate recruitment, voter outreach, and keeping up the morale of party footsoldiers across the country have been abysmally handled, most experts would agree.
It is clear this experiment was a disaster:
"It was my goal as general chairman to lead the party as it established the structure and raised the resources necessary to support our presidential candidate and ensure Republican victories next November," Mr. Martinez said. I asked at the time what in God's name the President was thinking of when he named someone to the post of party chairman who could only devote part of his time to the vital task of rebuilding the GOP after the 2006 disaster. It didn't make sense then and the results of Martinez's efforts are less than stellar. The party itself, thanks to the Presidents efforts at fundraising, is far ahead of the DNC in that regard. But both the Senate and Congressional Campaign Committees are far behind their Democratic counterparts. And GOP presidential candidates are losing the fundraising race by 3-1.
"I believe we have accomplished those goals. That's why it is the appropriate time for me to step down as general chairman and continue to focus my energy on serving my constituents in Florida."
President Bush praised his former Housing and Urban Development secretary yesterday, saying: "His message of hope and opportunity has resonated throughout America and strengthened support for our agenda. Because of his leadership, more Americans understand the Republican Party's efforts to grow our economy, support our troops, strengthen our schools and protect our country."
Mr. Martinez was hand-picked by then-White House political adviser Karl Rove to run for the open Senate seat, which he won handily with the help of the state's large Cuban population. But the workload and travel demands of the RNC chairmanship consumed more time than he had expected at the expense of less visibility back home, Republican strategists said.
Not all of that is Martinez's fault. But it never made sense not to have a full time chairman who could advocate party positions in the media and in forums across the country. Evidently, Martinez couldn't devote the time to either his Senate duties or his job as party chairman to be a success at either of them.