The Republican Party, struggling for continued existence as a major political institution, has shifted its focus from the White House to the state house, court-house and city hall.
The emphasis was evident today as the Republican National Committee would up a two-day meeting by approving a $7.4 million budget proposed by national chairman William Brock.The amount includes $3 million for 1977 campaign operations thaional chairman William Brock. The amount includes $3 that will concentrate on development of municipal and state legislative candidates.
"You can't rebuild the party from the top down," said Charles R. Black, Jr., newly appointed campaign director. "We had the White House for eight years and took too much for granted. We failed to recrui good candidates."
Black, 29, a North Carolina lawyer played a significant role last year in Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign.Though his appointment pleased Reagan conservatives, who have been critical of Brock, black is regarded by most party moderates as a capable political technician rather than an ideologue.
In discussing the decline of the GOP at the grassroots level, Black used the example of North Canadian.
1972, he said, the state party recruited 80 good legislative candidates and won 50 of the 150 legislative seats in the traditionally Democratic state. Each candidate had his own organization, which in turn contributed to the victory GOP candidats running for the U.S. Senate and governor.
But in the so-called Watergate referendum election of 1974, the GOP fell to ten legislative seats, Black said, and in the elections last year it lost two more legislative seats and the governorship. Furthermore, U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms faces a difficult re-election battle in 1978 and the GOP share of county commissioners has declined from 40 per cent in 1972 to 8 per cent today.
This pattern has been repeated in many other states, and today the GOP has relatively few good local candidates who are ready to climb the political ladder. It is "no coincidence," said Brock, that the party has about 30 per cent of the state legislators in the country and 33 per cent of the congressmen.
The budget approved includes $700,000 for a new local election campaign division and $500,000 to help provide each safe party with a trained political professional.
Also in the budget is $250,000 specifically carmarked for recruiting and assisting black candidates. The committee has hired the black-operated Associates, based in Columbus, Ga., as consultants for this.
Overall, the GOP will spend $375,000 for programs aimed at blacks more than six times any such previous outlay.
Brock urged members of the national committe to back up this financial effort by recruiting black candidates, as well as other minority candidates that don't have susbstance behind them," Brock said. "This is a real commitment."
However, it is a committment that will not be easy fo fulfill. James C. Cummings, Jr., chairman of the National Black Republican Council, pointed out in a speech this morning that only three blacks are voting members of the 162-member Republican National Committee.
Cummings warned that blacks would seek far greater representative and said the black council would push for rules changes at the 1980 convention to make it easier for blacks to participate in party leadership.
Judging from the meeting here, the Repulicans believe that President Carter is potentially most vulnerable on his energy conservation program. The national committee today approved a seven-point resolution which described Carter's plan to tseven-point resolution which described Carter's plan to tax gasoline and larger automobiles as "another tax ripoff of the middle class in America."
The resolution, following the lines of a Brock speech Friday, urged greater support for mass transit and fewer controls on oil and gas producers.
"We will opposed any attempt by the government to deny people their family cars," the resolution declared.
Another resolution denouncedo deny people their family cars" the resolution denounced Carter's proposal to allow voters to register on election day, saying it would "endanger the integrity of the franchise and open American elections to serious that of fraud."
Brock, who has steadily retreated from an early statement which appeared to favor the Carter plan, said he agreed with the resolution.