A few items of note from the Southern Republican Leadership Conference:
– The news that Polish President Lech Kaczynski and a large swath of that country’s government were killed in a plane crash in Western Russia this morning cast something of a pall over the affair. The delegates to SRLC seem to recognize not just the tragic irony of the crash, in that the 88 members of the Polish governing elite who died this morning were on their way to an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre, in which the Soviets liquidated a large chunk of the Polish military and intellectual elite – there is also a sense of foreign policy chaos surrounding the news. The decapitation of a government friendly to the United States – a few years ago when America recognized allies, Poland was certainly one of them – is a major event. Having a strong hand in charge of foreign policy at a time like this is important. The delegates here in New Orleans don’t think America has that right now, and they’re more than a little nervous about it.
– The question of leadership is, not surprisingly, the main agenda item on the minds of the assembly. Republicans don’t have defined leadership at the RNC, with party chairman Michael Steele in a deeply embattled state and his management being questioned even by his supporters. They don’t have it at the top of the party’s 2012 presidential ticket now, with there being an almost unanimous consensus that this is the most wide-open race in the party’s recent history. As such, the talk is about exploring different channels of political activism, working in a decentralized way, looking into individual candidates around the country to support in an effort to make a difference. The conservative movement in 2010 does not seem to fit the top-down model it previously has; whether the result ends up being that it’s ungovernable and splintered is gong to be an interesting process to watch develop. There are few fundamental disagreements among the people we’ve talked to in the last several days from a policy standpoint, though – we find social conservatives, libertarians, national security folks and fiscal hawks don’t differ much on substantial policy concerns and there is next to zero support for anything the Obama administration is doing. But which of the factions will lead the party going forward is completely open for discussion.
– GOP hopes for a takeover in the special election to replace Robert Wexler in Florida look dim. The Republican candidate Edward Lynch was hit with a bombshell piece in the Palm Beach Post this morning outlining the fact that he owes $600,000 to the bank on his house and the IRS says he owes them $1.4 million. What’s more, he owes $140,000 to subcontractors of his construction company.
Lynch says the government owes him $2.8 million from work his company did on a veterans’ hospital in Miami, which is the source of all his trouble. While he might be right, it’s a tough sell to the electorate that you belong in Congress when you have to say your money problems aren’t your fault.