If a number of heavyweight Republican donors and GOP members of the Tennessee legislature have their way, heads will soon be rolling at the Tennessee Republican Party. They might find out tomorrow at a meeting of the GOP Executive Committee.
Since the story broke on Wednesday drawing attention to a press release issued by the Tennessee Republican Party titled "Anti-Semites for Obama," the state party has been either publicly chastised or rebuked by the Republican National Committee, likely GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, GOP Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, GOP Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and former GOP state party chair State Rep. Beth Harwell, just to name a few.
As this story has been circulating, NashvillePost.com has spoken with Republican members of the state legislature and major donors to the party and the tenor of those conversations have been, "Don't use my name, but a head needs to roll."
Almost universally, support for GOP chair Robin Smith among donors and elected officials remains strong and she is getting high marks for her overall leadership of the state party. However, those same individuals who asked not to be named out of deference to her want to see a shake-up at her office and are pointing squarely at her communications director, Bill Hobbs.
Among the issues these Republican stalwarts have with Hobbs are his propensity to make the story about himself or his beliefs, which they say are not representative of the entire party. They feel that there a number of strong issues that Republicans can focus on in this election year, yet the message coming out of the Tennessee Republican Party consistently lacks discipline or merit. These are just a few of the issues these influential party members had before Wednesday.
Now, there is a growing feeling among donors and legislative members that Hobbs has either embarrassed the state party at the national level or that he has become so "toxic" that he will not be a credible voice for their message.
One state legislator told NashvillePost.com that, coupled with the reasons Hobbs left at Belmont University almost two years ago – depending on who you talk to, he either resigned or was fired – after posting an anti-Islamic drawing on the internet, the "Anti-Semites" release is indefensible and he should go.
The only consistent support Hobbs seems to have at this time comes from Democrats who have spoken to NashvillePost.com. Privately, they'd like to see him stay on the job because they believe he only speaks at this point for a fringe element of American politics.
The coming days will be the most interesting for how this battle shakes up and whether those GOP leaders get their wish. Their state party chair, Robin Smith, has been in Washington, D.C. the past few days for meetings that were originally supposed to be about party fund-raising but have likely grown into more than that.
Tomorrow morning, the Tennessee State Republican Party Executive Committee is expected to meet at the Legislative Plaza. If the meeting stays on the Capitol grounds, state law dictates that it will have to be open to the public. Since the state GOP – or Democratic party for that matter – is not subject to sunshine laws, the meeting could move off government property and behind closed doors.
Wherever they sit down, state GOP leaders will have a lot to talk about tomorrow.
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