Sessions Lays Out His Vision for New NRCC

Posted November 10, 2008 at 2:22pm

Texas Rep. Pete Sessions delivered a letter to the House GOP Conference Monday afternoon laying out his plans for the National Republican Congressional Committee should he win the chairmanship in next week’s leadership elections.

On the heels of the loss of approximately 20 seats in Tuesday’s elections and running for the job against current NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.), Sessions in his letter sets the bar high, writing that his goal in 2010 is to win back the majority, which would take a net gain of about 40 seats in what will be President-elect Obama’s first midterm elections.

Sessions also outlined his priorities, citing five key areas where he believes the NRCC has to immediately improve its performance. Those sectors of committee operations include candidate recruitment, fundraising, messaging, organizational strength and long-term strategy and tactics.

“The challenges facing our Conference are serious and pressing,” Sessions wrote. “My goal is simple: To win 218 seats for the House Republican Conference.”

In the aftermath of last Tuesday’s elections, Democrats hold a 253 to 176 majority, with a few House races still too close to call. This is the largest Democratic majority since Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992.

Sessions’ letter does not mention Cole — or the fact that the Texan has the backing of Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — but his proposals for how to run the NRCC make plain that he would take a different approach than the current chairman has.

In recruiting candidates, Sessions said he would implement a balanced approach, including “leveraging the NRCC’s assets to positively affect primaries (if necessary) to achieve optimal results in general elections.” Cole in the 2008 cycle took a much more hands-off approach to intervening in primaries.

On the fundraising front — where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee particularly outperformed the NRCC over the past two years — Sessions is pushing to “reform our fundraising methodology and transition to a less top-down fundraising approach.”

Sessions wants to improve the performance of current fundraising programs, while adding new contribution streams, including a new regionally based fundraising apparatus. Republican Members are unhappy that the DCCC spent $76.8 million on independent expenditures for Tuesday’s elections, while the NRCC spent just $24.2 million.

Similar to moves made by the DCCC for the 2006 and 2008 elections, Sessions wants the NRCC to increase its participation in get-out-the-vote activities. Since at least 2000, the NRCC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have depended upon the Republican National Committee to run the ground game for GOP candidates.

Sessions’ plan includes the implementation of NRCC-specific programs focused on voter identification, registration and getting voters out to the polls to vote for GOP House candidates. “We should design a House-driven GOTV effort,” Sessions wrote.

On the messaging front, Sessions is calling for a “flexible and innovative” approach for communicating to voters — one that utilizes old and new media more effectively. In terms of long-range tactics, Sessions says that House Republicans must begin preparing for redistricting now.

Congressional districts are set to be redrawn for the 2012 elections, following the 2010 Census and reapportionment process.

Cole has put forth his own plan, which calls for creating an entire redistricting department within the NRCC.

“As Republicans, we share a philosophy and principles that resonate with the American people — to win, all we need to do is provide our Members and challengers with the tools and resources they need to deliver our message effectively to voters,” Sessions wrote.