The South Carolina Republican Party is facing a critical six months. Between now and May 2011, at least five factors will influence the party’s agenda and offer opportunities to either prosper or commit suicide
First, Nikki Haley’s election as governor has gotten very flattering press nationally and she has made a name for herself with conservative reformers by confronting President Obama. This positive press can translate to the state’s party organization as a foundation for fundraising and recruitment.
Second, with Chairperson Karen Floyd stepping down in May, the SCGOP has an opportunity to build the party from the top down and reflect the mood of the state’s electorate. It doesn’t have to compromise, but it needs to select someone as Chair who can optimize the populist agenda.
Third, the rise of the Tea Party is an open invitation to absorb both the energy and the resources of a large and vocal (and voting) part of the population. It can be argued that the Tea Party is the Republican Party of old with the barnacles of arrogance scraped away. The party needs to talk to and include these folks.
Fourth, the 2012 South Carolina Presidential Primary will be held in February. This will be the first GOP primary as Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada will precede with caucuses and it comes only nine months after selection of a new SCGOP Chair. The primary will bring millions of dollars, bus loads of people and intense scrutiny to the state.
Fifth, the first GOP Presidential debate will take place in Greenville on May 5th. This is going to be the first volley in an 18 month battle for the White House and, like Ft. Sumter, it’ll be fired on Palmetto State soil. It is essential that the state party get this right and that all events are conducted flawlessly. And it wouldn’t hurt to have some high-tech innovations as well.
To get where it needs to go, the South Carolina Republican Party needs to shed the old school obstructionists and both construct and promote itself as as new, voter-centric fiscally conservative political entity. It also needs to prove that it can do the big things well and manage the details.
Suicide is certainly change, but not one with a future.