Haynes attends debate, lauds GOP presidential candidates

Tennessee Republican Chairman Ryan Haynes was on hand for the Wednesday Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colo., and, not surprisingly, had high praise for the GOP field and harsh words for the Democratic contenders, reports Georgiana Vines.

Haynes said he believes the 10 top candidates, plus the four lower-polling candidates, provide a diverse field, including minorities and one woman, who have had success either inside or outside government.

“It’s the best set of candidates that the Republican party has offered in many years,” he said.

Haynes cautioned about any candidate leading in the polls or being a frontrunner among the current candidates. In 2008, the early leaders in the polls among Republicans were former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giulani, he said. U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona eventually was the nominee and was defeated by Obama.

“We’re very likely to see numbers continue to shift around,” Haynes said.

He also said he felt the Republicans were being more open than Democrats with their debates.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida has tried to restrict the number of debates, he said.

“They’ve tried to control that. Ours is a process more open and accessible to the public,” he said.

Prior to the debate, Haynes spent time with about 15-20 other state chairmen, “swapping best practices,” he said. Haynes at 30 is the youngest state Republican chairman in the U.S. and was the only one from the South at Wednesday’s event, he said.

Other party chairs look upon Tennessee for ideas considered successful, such as recruiting candidates who can articulate their positions well, utilizing election data and fundraising, Haynes said. He said he also picked up some ideas but declined to elaborate.

“I wouldn’t want to reveal my playbook this early,” he said.