Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) was elected yesterday as the new House Republican Conference chair, which is good news for the party.  McMorris Rodgers will take over from the able Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), who will now serve as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee

This sends a good signal when we needed one.  As I said on Tuesday, electing McMorris Rodgers may help the GOP brand with women — and not electing her definitely would have hurt the brand even further.  She grew up working on a family farm, worked in small business and is raising two young children. She was also the first women to lead a House caucus.  Her election shows that women are welcome in the GOP leadership ranks — but more are needed. 

Assuming Reince Priebus doesn’t run for reelection as chairman of the Republican National Committee, this would be the next opportunity to have a woman in a GOP leadership position.  And all things considered, we’d be better off with a women in this position than not.  Even if we’re accused of tokenism, that’s better than the howls we would hear if we didn’t include women in the top ranks of the party. 

I’ll name two candidates who would be good.  Sally Bradshaw in Florida is a pro’s pro and a world-class campaign operative.  Heather Wilson would be another good choice.  She lost her Senate race, but I like the idea of having a chairman who has been a candidate in both winning and losing campaigns.  Also, she would be a remarkably credentialed policy spokesman for the party.  There are many others, but I offer these two just to get the discussion going.

RNC members always have an instinct to think that the chairman should come from inside the committee.  But that’s like saying the University of Alabama football team should only recruit players from Alabama, or that companies should only promote from within.  We need to expand and look outside the tight club of RNC members. 

Also, there is danger for the GOP in the Petraeus matter. Whoever escalates loses.

Elected GOP officials should try to let the Petraeus affair run its course outside of Congress. No elected person will gain anything by seeking to “get to the bottom of this matter,” much less pursuing a criminal investigation in this case. Republicans in Congress should mostly hide and let the Justice Department handle this matter, even if we party members think the Justice Department is naturally biased and acting to protect President Obama and his administration.

There is no good politics here and no vital national security interest that demands politics be ignored. In fact, if Republicans get on their high horse about this, it will hurt the party brand even further. The media is itching for someone in the GOP to escalate this to a federal case. If that happens, don't let it be on the Republicans’ account.