A massive new GOP effort to win races nationally, in places a little more challenging than the Palmetto State, has roots on the Charleston peninsula.
Jim Dyke, a former spokesman for the RNC who now runs a political consulting firm on King Street, rolled out American Crossroads last week with some big names on his roster; GOP insiders-turned-pundits Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie have been helping as informal advisers, while party heavyweights Mike Duncan, Jo Ann Davidson, and Steven Law are taking active roles in leading the effort.
American Crossroads is necessary to complete the GOP election tool belt in 2010, Dyke says, as well as to help the Republican Party prepare for a competitive 2012. But that doesn't matter — because a new GOP startup works into the story of the Republican National Committee's ongoing implosion, one gaffe after another.
While it should be celebrating fundraising victories, RNC leaders have had to explain questionable spending on the donors' dime — $1,900 to a West Hollywood bondage-themed bar, as well as a Hawaii retreat, private planes, and fancy limos.
The mess has led some prominent conservatives to openly suggest the party faithful spend their money elsewhere. So it's no surprise that the introduction of American Crossroads would slip into the narrative as an alternative place for those dollars. One of the first headlines about American Crossroads referred to it as a "Shadow RNC."
But Dyke says it'll be important for both the RNC and American Crossroads to be successful. "This is not a substitute for the national party," he says.
As the RNC spokesman in 2004, Dyke says he watched as Democrats used a variety of political groups to handle different aspects of the national campaign — one for voter turnout, another for media, and another for messaging.
"We watched as the DNC built and used all the tools at their disposal to try to win elections," Dyke says.
Of course, 2004 wasn't a great year for Dems, but it laid the groundwork for big wins in 2006 and 2008. Dykes says American Crossroads is building this year in expectation of a bigger role two years from now.
"This is not about seizing an opportunity in 2010," he says. "We need this tool in 2010, 2012, and 2014."
Philosophically, the group is focused on all the things you'd expect, like limited government, lower taxes, and more private enterprise. But the primary function of American Crossroads will be to spend money in competitive races — big money. The group hopes to raise $52 million, similar to the amount unions are reportedly planning to spend in support of pro-labor Democrats this year.
Don't look for this money to come from your GOP neighbor. Dyke notes this isn't a grassroots, embolden-the-base effort like the Democrats' Organizing for America or MoveOn.org. Instead, Crossroads will focus on support from traditional party donors and conservative businesses.
The group is going to offer monthly financial disclosures, as opposed to the standard quarterly reports, an obvious concession to donor anxiety in the wake of the RNC scandal. American Crossroads will also run a tighter ship, getting the money out to candidates and not leaving it in Washington.
"We're not looking for a K Street office and 30 staffers," Dyke says.
Instead, the group will put its resources toward party consultants on the ground in competitive states — folks who know where the resources are needed.
Some Republicans, including Sen. Jim DeMint, are already getting their hands dirty in primary races. But Dyke says American Crossroads will likely stay out of those fights. "The goal is to elect Republicans," he says.