June 22, 2005


His graduate course in politics: Michael Davidson wants to lead the College Republicans. (Robin Abcarian, June 22, 2005, LA Times)

Michael Davidson, Republican of Berkeley, is standing in the circular, two-story foyer of a Mediterranean dream home in a gated neighborhood in Laguna Niguel, sounding every bit like a headliner at a political fundraiser — which he is.

Davidson, 25, is running for chairman of the College Republican National Committee, a powerful grass-roots organization with thousands of members and a multimillion-dollar budget. He's in the race partly because of a fundraising controversy that has threatened to tarnish the group's reputation. And he has taken on a young man from South Dakota who was, until Davidson declared in February, heir apparent to the chairmanship.

On Saturday, at its biannual convention in Virginia, College Republicans will elect a new leader after months of charges, countercharges, endorsement switches and a blogosphere gone wild.

On this night, however, at the home of GOP activists Wayne and Linda Lindholm, Davidson does not dwell on dirty laundry. He does not mention the infamous "lapel pin letter" that brought the fundraising controversy to the forefront last year. Instead, flanked by four American flags and hand-painted signs, Davidson confidently delivers — seemingly off the cuff — an anecdote-rich speech about his triumphs as a conservative on a liberal campus. In Orange County — where George Bush captured nearly 60% of the vote in 2004 — this theme resonates.

Add to that a dash of Sept. 11 patriotism and Davidson is mining rhetorical gold:

"On Berkeley's campus after 9/11, they told us, 'You can't have red, white and blue ribbons. The American flag is divisive.' So we flipped out to say the least." Dueling press conferences ensued. And then, "The wrath of an angry nation descends upon the chancellor at Berkeley and he blinks." The College Republicans ended up distributing about 5,000 ribbons on the campus.

"Just think what it would have been like if the College Republicans hadn't been there!" says Davidson, who clearly relishes his Daniel-in-the-lion's-den image. Davidson will raise at least $1,000 at this event, but it's barely a dent in the $200,000 he estimates his campaign will cost.

So far, no one has made the leap from College Republican chairman to the Oval Office, but whoever controls the College Republicans — and its 120,000 members on 1,148 campuses — wields clout in real-world races, makes sterling connections and earns a black belt in the art of political combat. Former College Republican bigwigs include party luminaries and operatives such as Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Nice dig.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 22, 2005 8:04 AM
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