Transcription – John Ryder Interview

Q:              What I remember is that people expected Ohio to be perhaps the decisive state.  And arguably, it did turn out to be the decisive state.  So how did the court rule and did that ruling affect the voting in Ohio?

RYDER:      My recollection is that the court ruled against the Ohio Secretary of State and in favor of the Democrats, and it did not change the result in Ohio, which was carried by Bush in 2004.  And Ohio’s an interesting example of what Bush was able to accomplish in 2004.  Because he obtained the votes of [00:17:00] a significant percentage of African American voters in Ohio.  I think it was between 15% and 20% of African American voters in Ohio.

Q:              That was a year when Ohio had a same-sex constitutional amendment on the ballot, in other words, an amendment that proposed to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional in Ohio or something along those lines.  Did that help drive the Republican (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) —

RYDER:      That — it could have, although the analyses of those votes is kind of mixed in its conclusions as to whether that helped or hurt Republicans.  I mean, it turned out — undoubtedly turned out additional voters but had — they didn’t necessarily split all one way.  They didn’t — it wasn’t all Republican.

Q:              So how did Bush get — how did Bush get 15% to 20% in Ohio?

RYDER:      By working with the African American community out in Ohio.  And because there was — (laughter) there were – [00:18:00]

Q:              What does that —

RYDER:      — African American Republican leaders in Ohio.  For instance, the secretary of state at that time was Ken Blackwell, former Mayor of Cincinnati, a very active and very conservative Republican.  So you had both support from the White House and, I think, then you had — you combine that with indigenous black Republican leadership, and that creates a fairly powerful example and powerful vehicle for voters to express themselves through the Republican Party.  One of the things that helped Bush in the African American community was his support of faith-based initiatives.  And that’s important in the black community.  That is a tremendous source of social services in the inner city.  [00:19:00] You know, there are a lot of people who think that faith-based initiatives accomplish a lot more in dealing with the problems of inner cities than do government initiatives.  But those — he was supporting the people in the community dealing with the problems of the community.  And he was rewarded by the respect accorded him for that initiative.

Q:              That’s interesting because all the focus in 2004 is on how well Bush did among Latino voters.

RYDER:      Well, and he did well there.  I think 40%, 44%, so.

Q:              Let’s talk about the lead-up to 2004.  And I guess, one thing I’m interested in general — and your perspective on the RNC would enable you to speak to this – [00:20:00] did the Republican Party, the National Republican Party regard President Bush during his first term as somebody who was interested in seeing the party succeed?

RYDER:      Yes.  And there’s kind of a mixed message here.  I mean, he was very close to a lot of the members of the National Committee.  And in —

Q:              Why was that?

RYDER:      Because they supported him in the primary; they’d been with him from day one.  And so he had a good personal relationship with a lot of the members.

Q:              Did this have anything to do with his father having been RNC chair, and having been president, and so on?

RYDER:      Some.  I mean, there was some carryover from his father’s service, although that had been, what, in the ’70s?

Q:              A while.  (laughter)

RYDER:      Yeah, that had been, you know, we’re talking 25 years — a whole generation — earlier.  And you know, and the turnover on the RNC [00:21:00] is, you know — it’s, like, about 25% every four years.  Twenty-five to 33% turnover.

Q:              OK, let me get (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)

RYDER:      So back where we were going is the relationship with the RNC.  A large number of RNC members ultimately became ambassadors under Bush.  Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Tanzania, Luxemburg.  I mean, I can think of three or four people which obviously was a nice reward for those people, for their service.  And clearly had not happened during the Clinton administration, (laughter) as one would expect.  On the other hand, there tended to be a sort of cycling through of chairmen. [00:22:00] Because we went through half a dozen chairmen during the eight years that George Bush was president.  And that did not preserve the level of stability that is helpful to an organization.

Q:              How much of that happened during the first term?

RYDER:      I’d have to go back and look at the terms.  But I think we went through Jim Gilmore from Virginia and Marc Racicot from Wyoming and then wound up with Ed Gillespie at the time of the election.  And then after that, we went through the – [Mel] Martinez from Florida, and that was a temporary that he — and we wound up with Mike Duncan from Kentucky, who’d been a longtime member of the National Committee — and he’s still on the National Committee — and he served very ably as chairman [00:23:00] during the last, in 2008.