Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan issued a statement Saturday distancing the party’s leadership from one of the GOP’s best-known operatives, Chip Saltsman, who distributed a CD containing “Barack the Magic Negro” as part of his campaign to be elected chairman of the Republican National Committee next month.
Duncan, who has served the campaigns of five presidents dating back to Richard Nixon, is seeking reelection as the party’s 60th chairman in a hotly contested race that includes Saltsman and several other viable candidates.
Saltsman, 40, was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager during the Republican presidential primaries.
Saltsman sent Republican National Committee members, who will choose the next chairman, a CD by conservative political satirist Paul Shanklin, “We HATE the USA.” It contains the controversial track, which was popular on conservative radio. Shanklin’s Web site promises “absolutely the best parodies in talk radio.”
Duncan's statement, in full: "The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party. I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction."
Saltsman’s candidacy for national party chair is endorsed by Huckabee and fellow Tennessean Bill Frist, the former Senate majority leader.
Saltsman defended his song selection to The Hill’s Reid Wilson, who first reported the gift.
“Paul Shanklin is a longtime friend, and I think that RNC members have the good humor and good sense to recognize that his songs for the Rush Limbaugh show are light-hearted political parodies,” Saltsman told The Hill.
Saltsman’s marketing campaign comes as Republicans grapple with ways to offer a counterpoint to President-elect Obama at a time when the country is largely supportive of his appointments and policies.
The national GOP ticket lost badly in November among many growing voter groups – including young people, Hispanics and suburbanites. Party officials says that a voter base consisting of the South plus social conservatives is not a dependable way to win elections.
In the “Republican Plan for Victory” that is Saltsman’s platform in the chairman’s race, he writes: “I believe that countering an emboldened Democratic Party, led by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika, requires an aggressive national strategy. This campaign’s message cannot depend upon traditional media outlets or communication methods. It will require building upon new media and developing and mastering new tactics.”
The disclosure by The Hill was met with an odd silence from Republican leaders. The story was posted at 12:10 p.m. on Friday, was quickly picked up by Talking Points Memo, and for a time was the banner headline on The Huffington Post, later replaced by Israeli’s strikes on Gaza.
Duncan issued his statement after Politico noted the party’s 22-hour silence.
Politico has exchanged e-mails with an aide to Saltsman, and will post a response when it arrives.
Saltsman is a former development director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and was elected chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party in 1998.