American Majority training local conservatives in the national shadow of an embattled president

Author: Joey Bunch - June 5, 2017 - Updated: June 5, 2017

American Majority Project Ned Ryun
Ned Ryun (Photo courtesy of the American Majority)

Ned Ryun and his American Majority nonprofit have a big sales pitch to make before next year’s election. The goal: find conservatives willing to run in Donald Trump’s shadow, at the same time his organization tries to build a new generation of candidates to remake the party’s outlook and image.

Ryun founded the national conservative nonprofit nine years ago to build the movement from the grassroots up.

Through Nick McIntyre, the state executive director, the American Majority trains Colorado activists to work on turning our purple state reliably red. McIntyre talks to local folks across the state to identify people who could be conservatives capable of getting elected, then training those folks on how to win … from the grassroots up.

Democrats have the same sorts of groups, and both sides get funding for rich people who support liberal or social agendas.

While Trump takes a beating in the headlines, Republicans aren’t paying a price. Greg Gianforte won a special election in Montana two weeks ago, even after allegedly assaulting a reporter who asked about Trump’s health care plan. Republicans are also leading in the polls in upcoming special elections in reliably red South Carolina and Georgia.

For Ryun, Trump problems next year are hypothetical for Republicans. Prognosticating anything about the New Yorker-in-chief is dicey, since the prognosticators have been so wrong so many times, but if Russia, impeachment and a slowing economy are on voters’ minds next year, quality newcomers will be hard to coax onto the ticket, perhaps waiting for better days.

“Donald Trump is going to have to get a couple of big wins on economic policy and strengthen the economy and jobs, and then he can change the narrative,” Ryun said in a phone conversation Friday. “I will say this, if Donald Trump passes tax reform and cuts regulations on business, he’s going to be alright.”

Trump needs to take a firmer, more direct hand in driving his own agenda in Congress, Ryun said. He’s is running the White House like a corporation, and Trump, the CEO, sees House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as senior vice presidents. “They aren’t,” Ryun said.

For tax purposes, American Majority is nonpartisan, but its donors include some of the biggest named conservative foundations that aim and moving the country to the right. Ryun is a familiar name on the political talk shows and conservative publications. He considered a possibility as the next Republican National Committee chairman last year, as Reince Priebus became White House chief of staff.

Ryun said on the phone that the next generation for Republican candidates should not make it a priority to fight the partisan wars of Washington. They should try to bring local political values and priorities to bear on Washington, rather than Beltway battles spilling into local races.

Candidates should be able to solve problems first, Ryun said.

Every election first-time politicians aim way higher than they should. They lack the know-how to raise campaign money, to retain and coordinate volunteers in a ground game or to communicate with the press. In big-time races against polished and well-financed incumbents, most rookies stumble and fall.

“What we’re trying to do is build a farm team,” Ryun said.

Most political aspirants would be better off running in a local race, then perhaps the state legislature before making a big jump into big-time politics, he said. They learn how to win and how to govern, and voters get comfortable with who they’re supporting for higher offices, he said.

A town council race is not the place to be arguing about partisan foreign policy, he said, when people have pot holes they need fixed. While partisan principles are great, they don’t do much good if candidates seem out of touch with the responsibilities of the job they’re running for.

“Don’t lead with some of these contentious issues,” Ryun advised. “You’ll get around to those, but it’s not the first thing on voters’ minds. The thing most voters want is to be left alone by the government. Focus on that … be a little more sophisticated.”

Losing isn’t the end of the world, he said, but candidates who run and run and run aren’t likely to ever be successful once they look more like an opportunist than a public servant, he agreed with Colorado Politics’ assertion.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.