Posted on December 3, 2012

J.C. Watts for RNC chair?

John Bresnahan, Politico, December 2, 2012

Former GOP Rep. J.C. Watts says he is being “encouraged” by supporters to run for chairman of the Republican National Committee, a move he says could broaden the party’s appeal to minorities.

Watts is not formally entering the race, and he is not critical of current RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who has already announced he will [pursue a] second term in the post.

But Watts, an African-American conservative who served in the House from 1994-2002, said the GOP defeat on Election Day demonstrates that Republicans need to broaden their appeal to minority voters, and cannot continue on their current path if the party is to be successful in presidential races.

“My concern right now, and I don’t say this necessarily as a candidate [for RNC chairman], my concern is that as a Republican, every single Republican in America ought to be concerned about what has happened in 2008 and 2012,” Watts said in an interview with POLITICO. “In this business, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.”


Watts complained that Republican efforts to reach out to minority groups have not been sustained or consistent during his 20-plus years as a politician, but rather are executed on ad hoc basis — usually in election years. {snip}

“These old, tired, pathetic models of saying, ‘Okay, in the black [community], when there’s a presidential election, we will form an African-American Coalition for [Mitt] Romney or [Sen. John] McCain,’ I’ll never do that again. That is a joke, that is so tired,” Watts said. “It’s window dressing to say, ‘African Americans for Romney’ or ‘African-American Coalition’ or ‘African-American Advisory Council.’ That’s insulting to the people that they ask to do it when you don’t put permanent infrastructure in place to give it credibility.”


The Oklahoma Republican insisted he wasn’t slamming Priebus personally, yet said prominent African-American conservatives weren’t used effectively by the Romney campaign or GOP to counter Obama’s appeal to black voters or other minority communities.

“I don’t know Priebus,” Watts said. “That’s like [Speaker] John Boehner saying, ‘I don’t know President Obama.’ Or Obama saying, ‘I don’t know [Sen.] Mitch McConnell.’ … For the first time since I’ve been a Republican in 1989, I can’t tell you who is in charge of trying to establish deeper relationships with non-traditional constituencies, especially in that black space at the RNC. I have no clue who it is.”

“We’ve so allowed the left to define diversity, that we don’t like talking about diversity, we don’t like talking about multicultural things,” Watts said. “To me, I take a biblical view on diversity and multicultural issues… We shouldn’t be afraid to discuss it.”


Yet Watts faces a steep uphill fight — at best — for the RNC post if he decides to formally enter the race. Priebus, the former Wisconsin GOP chairman, took over the RNC in 2011 after ousting Michael Steele, the first African-American to head the GOP. Priebus is widely credited with helping rebuild the committee’s finances after a disastrous run under Steele. When Priebus took over the RNC, it was $22 million in debt, which has been eliminated.

Priebus has already announced that his seeking a second term as RNC chairman and looks to have more than enough votes wrapped up at this point to guarantee a win even if Watts does decide to formally challenge him. Of the 168 voting members who get to pick the RNC chairman, Priebus has at least 130 votes locked up, and possibly as many as 150, said party insiders.


[Editor’s note: Mr. Watts does not strike us as a very inspirational Republican.]