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RNC chairman Ken Mehlman and GOP e-Campaign Director Patrick Ruffini have flown to Minnesota to conduct a roundtable conference on the latest in Republican efforts for the midterm elections and 2008 presidential campaign. A gaggle of bloggers have come to the state Republican headquarters in St. Paul, where we will live-blog the conference and the Q&A afterwards.
We're about to get started ...
5:25 PM - Ron Carey, Minnesota GOP chair, is introducing everyone. After a brief welcome and an affirmation of the importance of blogging for getting the Republican message past the mainstream media, Patrick spoke about the commitment to technology.
5:27 - Mehlman talks about the movement from mass marketing to mass customization and then to mass collaboration. He considers this the future of political communication and organization.
5:29 - Ken sets out the stakes. He also notes that bloggers serve as "umpires" -- we make sure that people are held accountable for their actions and rhetoric. If we care about winning the war on terror and providing economic freedom, we need to maintain that role and increase the debate. He feels confident that the GOP has the right message and needs the bloggers to help get it out.
5:33 - They plan to expand the role of technology and bloggers for the 2006 and -08 campaigns. Look towards a much larger engagement in the '08 convention, and bloggers will have much more leeway in finding creative ways to frame the message.
5:36 - Ken says that the GOP needs to make sure elections are about choice and not referendums. We need to push people to communicate their plans for correcting what they complain about. Good point; he says that a referendum would make it a tough election.
5:37 - On Iran, the GOP needs to press for immediate action through diplomacy and economic sanctions to try everything short of war first to stop the Iranian bomb.
5:39 - Ken says that most Republican incumbents will stand by the President and that the GOP will hang onto their majorities in both houses. He believes that Dayton's seat is the best chance for a Republican gain in November.
5:42 - On budget, I pressed Ken on the lack of budgetary discipline shown by the GOP-controlled Congress. He says that budget-cutting will be a higher priority, but also wants to emphasize that the Democrats have pressed for even more discretionary spending than that passed by the Republicans in control. Again, this comes down to a choice. He also wants to emphasize that we need better management of entitlement spending, since that will cause the greatest stress on future deficits.
5:47 - Tired WH staff: Ken isn't as concerned about that as our own senator, Norm Coleman. He says that Bush is an active manager of his staff -- a very down-to-business manner.
5:49 - Katherine Harris: "A strong candidate ... She has won every office she ran for."
5:51 - Ken pointed out that 2006 will feature five or six African-American candidates for national office, and the majority will be Republican.
5:52 - Howard Dean still is avoiding a debate with Ken.
5:54 - Every Democrat who has won the presidency in the past 40 years (see update) have been a Southerner who ran as more conservative than the party as a whole. He thinks that Hillary still could win, however, having the energy of being the first woman to top a major party ticket.
5:57 - Patrick's typical day revolves around serving the blogging community -- working on getting the facts and message out every day, developing new technology.
We're wrapping up now -- it's been an excellent Q&A session, a good opportunity for us to ask questions and get a sense of the direction of the party.
UPDATE: Ken said 40 years, and I mistyped it. Mea culpa, mea maxima typographical culpa.Sphere It View blog reactions
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