RNC, DNC: Who's In, Who Out?

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Along with the many changes a new administration brings to Washington, there is going to be a change at the helm of the two political parties. In January, both the Democratic and Republican National Committees will elect new chairmen.


This is Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Ari Shapiro.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Along with the many changes a new administration brings to Washington, there's going to be a change at the helm of the two political parties. In January, both the Democratic and Republican National Committees will elect new chairmen. NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, reports on who might be the new leaders.

MARA LIASSON: It's the prerogative of new presidents to name their own party chairs, and Barack Obama is no exception. In an interview yesterday, the current Democratic Party chair, Howard Dean, made it unofficially official that he would not seek another term.

Mr. HOWARD DEAN (Chairman, Democratic National Committee): I have not made a formal announcement that I'm stepping down, but I am stepping down. The president gets to, you know, name his own DNC chair, and the president should be able to do that.

LIASSON: There's no word yet on who President-elect Obama might pick to replace Dean, but one name being floated is Claire McCaskill, the junior senator from Missouri, a battleground state Obama didn't win this year but would like to in the future. McCaskill was an early supporter of Obama's and the co-chair of his campaign.

Dean and his 50-state strategy were often criticized by congressional Democrats, including the incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel and other Democrats thought Dean was wasting money in states Democrats could never win. But now the Obama campaign has vindicated Dean's efforts by spending money in previously red states and increasing the congressional majority Democrats won in 2006.

Mr. DEAN: So I feel like I've done what I needed to get done. And I think President-elect Obama has a very similar philosophy as I do about how to win elections, which is of course how he won elections, winning nine states that George Bush won the last time.

LIASSON: On the Republican side, there's likely to be a spirited battle for the chairmanship of the GOP. The current chair, Mike Duncan, wants to stay on, but Newt Gingrich is also hinting at a run. Gingrich is the former house speaker and the man who, 14 years ago, led House Republicans out of the political wilderness and into the majority, the same majority they lost two years ago. Gingrich told WTHR-TV in Indianapolis that the reason why his party got drubbed last week was not ideology.

(Soundbite of WTHR-TV, Indianapolis)

Dr. NEWT GINGRICH (Republican Politician; Author; College Professor): I think the Republican Party is struggling to get beyond incompetence.

LIASSON: Gingrich, like many Republicans, does not believe the election was a rejection of the Republican's philosophy. At a conference last month at the American Enterprise Institute, he argued that it's almost impossible to win an election when your party in Congress deserts its principles and when your own president has an approval rating of just 23 percent.

Dr. GINGRICH: This is an election about performance. And if the Republicans lost in 2006 as a function of performance because the Congress, in fact, had not behaved the way Republicans thought Congress should behave...

LIASSON: Gingrich is not alone in his desire to lead the GOP. If he does run for party chair, he'll have plenty of competition. He'll have to face the current chair and a group of younger Republican state party chairs and possibly other better-known candidates who have yet to announce their intentions. Gingrich is also considering a run for the presidency in 2012. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.

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Correction Nov. 11, 2008

We called Missouri "a battleground state Obama didn't win this year." As of today, a winner has not yet been declared in Missouri.



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