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The case for Jim Greer

My friends are going to start questioning my loyalties with two straight blogs about the GOP, and I promise that I will get back to what I know best.  But being a Democrat, I know a thing or two about party dysfunction, so I feel competent to talk about Jim Greer.

The GOP needs to keep him.

I know that sounds nuts and quite honestly, maybe it is.  But hear me out.

Selfishly, I love having the guy around.  During the Obama campaign, he was fun to spar with, especially as he held on to his misguided belief that we were not taking Florida seriously.  I remember once he had his press people try to convince reporters that our decision to move our state headquarters one block to a new building with more parking was a sign that Obama was pulling out of the state.  Even as late as early October 2008, I would end up on television broadcasts with Greer where he would claim that our campaign was a phantom one.  Would we have won without Jim Greer?  Yes.  Did he make it more fun?  Sure.

But that is not why the GOP should keep him.  For that reason, they should only look to the Democrats.

Between 1996 and 2000, the Florida Democratic Party had something like four chairs.  During the same period, the House Democrats ousted their leader designate, Willie Logan.  The result:  utter disaster.  Between 1998 and 2000 alone, the Democrats lost virtually every statewide office, including the Presidency, a couple of state senate seats and 12-14 state house seats.  And it wasn't like the national mood was horrible then for Democrats. In 1998, Democrats won virtually every southern Governor and picked up seats in Congress both cycles.

But not here.  That era alone took my party from relevant minority to the dark ages---a place we are just now still climbing out of.

Party Chair/Party Leader transitions are never easy (I've been through a few of those myself).  They lead to staff changes, changes in style and a fairly lengthy period of constituency confidence building.  I am pretty certain my Party Chair Karen Thurman, who has had a very nice electoral run as Chair, would freely admit that the learning curve of becoming a new party chair is steep and takes time. 

This is the biggest election cycle in Florida since 1970, in fact, it is the first time in 140 years that every statewide office is on the ballot without an incumbent seeking re-election.  How Florida goes in 2010 may impact where this state's politics fall in the next decade, which obviously has even larger implications.  Changing directions for the GOP now would undoubtedly create more organizational dysfunction and internal party strife.  Certainly for Charlie Crist, losing Greer would be a huge blow to his campaign, particularly since Greer may be the entirety of Crist’s base. (See yesterday’s post of more on Crist’s lack of a base.)

This is not to say that I think in anyway that Greer has been a success as Chair.  While many factors impact why candidates win and lose and the Party Chair plays only a bit part in that equation, losing the Presidential election, a net of three Congressional seats and nine State House seats is hardly Tom Slade material.  Further, his antics make it too easy for the press guys on my side of the aisle, and given his record and spending habits I have no idea why he wasn't replaced after November 2008.   Crist's loyalty to him is stunning. 

For these reasons, the GOP has been smart to box him in, by giving well respected former House Speaker Bense a fairly heavy hand in operations at the RPOF (at least publicly). Moreover, party operations in Gubernatorial years tend to be driven by the camp of the nominee anyways, so Greer's influence will naturally wane this cycle.  And they should definitely continue to keep him away from the AMEX and airplanes. 

While I continue to be shocked to watch how the once iron-discipline RPOF has been replaced by something more akin to our model of operating, ironically, history suggests that if they want to win in November, Greer may need to continue to captain the ship.

And I promise next time, I'll talk about my side of the aisle!

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