For all the punditry in outlets such as the Washington Post that newly-elected Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus is the candidate of the Republican “establishment” and the blogosphere hint that he is somehow less than conservative, there are other opinions: namely, conservative activists in Priebus’s homestate of Wisconsin who strongly voice the view that the 38-year-old state chairman is “the real deal.”
“I’m sure he’s conservative,” said American Conservative Union Board member Muriel Coleman of Madison, Wisc., a vigorous campaigner for conservative candidates such as Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp and the Badger State’s former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Coleman pointed out that, as state GOP chairman, “Priebus worked closely with conservatives and especially the ‘tea party’ groups that were so key to our sweep in November.” She added that, “what is most important, is that [Priebus] understands the nuts-and-bolts of politics, that people reaching out to other people at the grass-roots level is as critical–if not more so–to winning as big money and TV time.”
This view of Priebus as a conservative who is also a “grass-roots guy” was strongly echoed by Bob Dondahl of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. A builder and pharmacist by trade, Dondahl is the organizer of the Wisconsin’s annual version of the Conservative Political Action Conference and is founder and editor of his state’s Conservative Digest.
Like Coleman, Dondahl stressed that Priebus “understands ‘boots on the ground’ and that’s critical to winning.” He recalled his own role In the 1970’s as a co-author of the “Kasten Plan”, the Republican plan for turning out supporters of a candidate and was key to the election of GOP House Members from the young Dan Quayle in Indiana in 1976 to present House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) in his first House race in 1998.
“After so many years of party leaders just focusing on certain races and spending money on consultants, Reince brought the Kasten plan back and we won big last fall–governor, senator, the legislature, everything,” he added.
Dondahl has known Priebus since the young attorney waged an unsuccessful race for the state senate from the Kenosha-Racine area and said: “We talked many times on just about every issue–economic, cultural–and he’s conservative, all right. And he was key to recruiting [just-elected Sen.] Ron Johnson and [just-elected Rep.] Sean Duffy, who won the seat Dave Obey had held for 41 years. No one ever accused either of them of being less than conservative.”
Regarding the state’s tea party movement, Dondahl said, “Look, there are about 80 different chapters of it here and Reince got them all to work together for our candidates. And he had no enemies.”
Later this year, Dondahl will host a conservative conference at which he plans to present the new RNC chairman the “Dwight Eisenhower Award.” He explained that “it is not because is like Eisenhower as president but like him when he was supreme commander of allied forces in World War II. He brought together generals with differing opinions such as Montgomery and Patton and they went on to win a great victory.”