I’m amused at the thought of one-half of the Cruz/Fiorina ticket taking command of the Republican establishment.
She’ll have more name recognition thanks to her presidential campaign than most of her competition for the job will, and of course the GOP would relish having a woman in the top job if Trump takes a beating from women voters this fall — especially if one of the roles for the next RNC chair will be as attack dog against the first woman president. (The national party hasn’t had a woman chairman in nearly 40 years.) Just one question: Is Fiorina likely to be the most prodigious fundraiser in the field? That’s the chairman’s chief duty, after all.
Fiorina and her aides have plotted an aggressive season of travel this fall to states with and without close Republicans races as she looks to help down-ballot Republicans, but people familiar with the plans said she is also looking to curry favor with the influential 168 members of the Republican National Committee. In phone calls and emails, Fiorina has reached out to party chairs across the country as well as RNC committee-men and -women who will elect a successor to incumbent RNC chairman Reince Priebus in January…
What elevated Fiorina’s travel from popular surrogate and fundraiser to that of RNC chair candidate, according to multiple RNC members, was her outreach to the U.S. territories, a particularly powerful voting bloc within the RNC but fall way down on the party’s priority list for the fall. Another source noted that the domains CarlyForChair.com and CarlyForRNC.com were both registered on July 14 at the same time.
The campaign for the chairmanship would be moot should Donald Trump win the White House, when custom dictates that the RNC defer to the wishes of the incumbent president. But Fiorina isn’t betting on a Trump win—in fact just the opposite. The noted Clinton critic has declined to formally endorse Trump, but has sought to burnish her spot in the conservative moment with frequent attacks on the Democratic nominee.
Reince Priebus hasn’t said yet that he’s retiring but he’s already served six years as RNC chairman, longer than anyone else, and it’s hard to believe he’d want to spend two more picking up the pieces after Trumpmania. After the past 15 months, the guy probably just wants to sit in a dark room for awhile. If Trump loses badly this fall and the RNC decides that the party needs to rebrand dramatically in the aftermath, installing a relentless Trump critic like Fiorina would make some sense. She has some national fundraising experience already, not just from her presidential campaign but as fundraising chairman of the RNC’s “Victory Initiative” eight years ago and as vice chair of the NRSC in 2011. She raised a little less than $12 million for her campaign, 54 percent of which came from the sort of wealthy donors she’d be targeting as RNC chair, which you can spin however you like. On the one hand, she was a comparatively little-known pol in a field stacked with A-listers like Rubio and Cruz, making competition for fundraising dollars intense. On the other hand, just $12 million? Fiorina comes off as virtually the opposite of a back-slapping schmoozer like Haley Barbour who’s skilled at shaking coins loose from rich Republicans. She’s not a choice that would occur to you instantly if a vacancy opened up.
Whether you like the idea may depend on whether you think there’ll be a vacuum of effective Republican surrogates in the media against Clinton. Fiorina can do that job, and has done it on the stump many times. Plus, the opportunity for big Republican gains in the Senate in 2018 will help encourage GOP donors to ante up in 2017 even without a top-flight fundraiser at the head of the RNC. If you’re looking to counterprogram the base’s image as angry populists and the establishment’s image as milquetoast softies, Fiorina, the former business exec turned sharp Clinton and Trump critic, is pretty strong counterprogramming.
Exit question: In an alternate universe where Fiorina never ran for president but became head of the RNC two years ago, would she be supporting Trump as nominee the way Reince has?