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Battle for the Soul of the RNC: Scott Sands (Toledo, OH) Interview

Updated: May 31, 2023

With the winter Republican National Committee (RNC) meeting convening this week, TBORA President John Pudner traveled down to Dana Point, California to not only connect with key party figures and grassroots leaders, but to discuss and advocate for TBORA's top priority - sound, common-sense election rules that ensure secure, free, and fair elections that reflect the will of the people. These range from defending against Soros-backed attacks on Voter ID as recently seen in Michigan, to key work on ensuring fair and balanced redistricting, to promoting 'Final Five' Ranked Choice Voting, an innovative new way to conduct elections and help end internal divisions within County GOP's across our Republic.

As the RNC winter meeting concludes with today's election of the next party chair, President Pudner was invited as a featured guest on The Scott Sands Show, a talk-radio show on Toledo, Ohio's WSPD. In this extended interview, both discussed the current debate within the RNC as to what the Republican Party's future holds and how the party will move forward towards success in 2024. Moreover, both analyzed the race for the next RNC Chair, discussed the need for party reforms, and talked about the important work on election rules TBORA conducted at the RNC winter meeting.

The following transcript from this interview is presented in its entirety with minor edits:


Republicans, candidates, vote, election, Voter ID, RNC chair, tough decisions.


John Pudner and Scott Sands.

Scott Sands 00:00

John Pudner is joining me now, he is President of the Take Back Our Republic Action, from the Waldorf Astoria in lovely California, very nice accommodations this week. John, it's great to have you back on.

John Pudner 00:15

Well, I'm standing outside for the first time in weeks, being a Milwaukee guy and all.

Scott Sands 00:20

Yeah, you're getting much better weather than we've had this week in Northwest Ohio.

John Pudner 00:27

That's 51 weeks a year of my life but I do one out here every year.

Scott Sands 00:30

So, John, and by the way, congratulations on the Bulldogs winning the national championship. It pains me to say that.

John Pudner 00:41

Oh! Painful start. Thank you, though.

Scott Sands 00:45

You're in California, John, for the RNC chair election, which I've got to imagine has been fun people-watching at times, probably quite contentious, right?

John Pudner 00:58

It has, and the members do it all behind closed doors, like you should, and have it out what's best for the party. The three candidates all have made their case. I suspect Ronna McDaniel will continue on, but the vote will be tomorrow, and Harmeet Dhillon, a good friend of mine, I think has some good points. Mike Lindell, Mr. MyPillow, is the third candidate, and...

Scott Sands 01:24

Is he really? Is he really a candidate?

John Pudner 01:26

Well, I don't think he has many votes, and the problem is his case (to voters) is he's the only one backing Trump of the Chair candidates when the whole point of the Chair is to be the referee you're picking for the nomination process. So yeah, he's the one we'd really have problems with as Chair.

Scott Sands 01:44

Yeah, you're not supposed to be picking someone who's gonna be partisan. It may wind up that way in the end, and they should be a strong advocate of whoever the party nominates, but you don't want to go in there with your thumb on the scale all year.

John Pudner 01:59

Yes, and Reince Priebus was great at this in 2016. They kept accusing him of making the party try to beat down Trump, but he really didn't and he made sure everything was fair. The Democrats were rigging everything, there was 2016 for Hillary, and somehow, a lot of the press was saying, "Well, the Republicans are going to try to rig it against Trump." He (Priebus) just let it play out and Trump won, so that's all we want - just a fair referee.

Scott Sands 02:21

How has Ronna McDaniel done in her role as Chair so far?

John Pudner 02:29

Well, just to restate the argument, of course, Harmeet's argument is that the party has not won, has performed below expectation, and that's got to rest with the party. Obviously, the party would say, "Hey, we did a lot. Some things change, like the Dobbs decision, but we did get the House. That's the basic back and forth on who can lead the party better in the future.

Scott Sands 02:53

I do think, and the Chair race is really is not where this will stem from, I think the end result will come from whoever wins the party nomination to run for president, but the real battle right now in the Republican Party is a battle for the soul, and what the priorities will there be for the GOP moving forward, and will the party be the party that looks forward to find solutions to the budget, our debt crisis, immigration, crime in America, the Opioid and Fentanyl epidemic, on foreign policy, the invasion of Ukraine? What are those solutions looking forward? Or, are we going to be the party that looks back and cries about election theft again for the next six years?

John Pudner 03:44

No, you're right, the ones who did focus on theft did not do well last November, as we know. And I'd say, though, the party is solidly in agreement on a lot of things that aren't going to be argued about between the nominees. The southern border, being tough on China even if that means a multi-national corporation isn't making as much money, which would not have been the Republican Party stance 20 years ago, so I think there's some core anchors. Abortion is obviously a new one. DeSantis will say, “I passed a timeline where, after a certain date, you can have them.” Trump came out very forcefully a few weeks ago and said everyone's got to make rape and incest exceptions and the life of the mother but continue to be pro-life. So, that's an issue that there'll be some volatility on exactly how you deal with it, but on the others, there are some standard items of agreement that I don't think will be debated among the potential presidential nominees.

Scott Sands 04:39

The Congressional Budget Office came out today saying Social Security will run out of money by 2033. Now, we've been crying wolf about that for a couple of decades, but I think, if there's ever a time for it to run out of money, it's going to be in 10 years. There will be tough decisions that will need to be made, and it's hard for Republicans to win talking about making cuts to welfare programs like Social Security when Democrats are gonna make that a vocal issue. They'll show us shoving grandma out into the cold if we talk about the tough decisions that will need to be made. To save Social Security also means Republicans would need to make tough decisions about defense spending, which is not something many Republicans are comfortable talking about, either.

John Pudner 05:27

That's right, and I think Republicans have to bring it more at home now because the numbers are so big on the budget that no average person has a grasp on it. Even economists don't have a grasp on just the size of the deficit and the overall budget. You have to bring it home on some things such as how the budget plays out. Among other things, China ends up with the money and they're buying farmland all over the country, so the Chinese are now not only manufacturing all of our pharmaceuticals, but they're buying up farmland, beginning to monopolize things you need as people. So, I think there's gonna be an effort to bring things home and say, “This is why there's nonstop deficit spending, these are some of the things that really happen, they will impact you the average person,” not just showing the number ticking and the number going up on deficit. That's just not real for the average person. They need to understand the impact that will happen here.

Scott Sands 06:18

John Pudner, President of Take Back Our Republic Action Fund, and he's in California right now for the RNC Chair election. I think Ronna has done a pretty good job. I am disappointed that the red wave many people expected didn't show up, but I think Republicans, and this doesn't necessarily come from the Chair down, I think Republicans ran some awful candidates. There was some bad timing on some news stories. There obviously was some media bias and coverage of some races. But, Republicans ran pretty awful candidates nationally.

John Pudner 06:57

Yeah, I agree, and I think the things the party can do, the blocking and tackling, I do think they do a good job with data. They're always complaints, but there's things like that which have nothing to do with issues. Can you line up and block the guy across from you? I think the data is quite good. I think a lot of the door knocking, organizing people wanting to knock, those are the things the party needs to do. Now, they need a platform too, and that’s where we do get into some issues on what they may put in, and sometimes I disagree. This week, they did pass a resolution saying they don't want Ranked Choice Voting anywhere. I think there's a way to do it through Final Five, which gets rid of the problems and tweaks the system. I wish they didn’t do the blanket one, but that's just that's the resolution they passed I would disagree with, but I agree with it on other things. Our focus is on the rules that govern elections, and I think they’re right on this, especially on trying to stop was just done last year in Michigan, where you're never going to be able to have a voter ID, and that's just an invitation to fraud. So, it's these kinds of things that are boring, but the stuff that the party really needs to do.

Scott Sands 08:02

I was actually just about to ask about that because George Soros dumped a ton of money into Michigan's election integrity bills, and will eventually block the state of Michigan, not that it ever was, but if it ever wanted to pass a voter ID law.

John Pudner 08:20

And what's so upsetting about that is Soros put in $8 million, his buddies put in $23 million, and they just tricked the voters. That's what bugs me. They put on there that you were voting for voter ID, which is what the person read and said, “Oh, good. This is about voter ID. Everyone wants that.” And then, they added a few words saying you can sign an affidavit, which basically means you can never enforce voter ID again, you just have to sign a piece of paper saying you are who you are. All the talk about people undermining democracy, and then you spend the money to basically lie to voters on a ballot to trick them into voting opposite of what they think they're voting for, and make that into a constitutional amendment, where now they can never pass a law on voter ID without changing the constitution, it's just one of the worst abuses of democracy I've seen in the election rules space.

Scott Sands 09:12

You mentioned Ranked Choice Voting, which is a concept that intrigues me. I'm not sure I'm in favor of it, but it's a very interesting concept, and it would help, I think, alleviate some of the two-party dominance. That's not to say that I necessarily want to see, you know, a fourth and fifth party like we have battling for control in England at times in Parliament, but it would give more opportunities to a Libertarian Party, a Constitutional party, and for that matter, even a Green or a Communist Party would perhaps have better chances in some elections.

John Pudner 09:52

Yes, and they don't become spoilers. You can vote for them and your second vote and so on. So what I've been telling chairs here this week is, “I understand you passed a resolution saying no Ranked Choice Voting, but let's talk about what's bad about Ranked Choice Voting and what can be fixed.” I don't like having Ranked Choice Voting with more than five candidates on the ballot. I think that is confusing. I think you need a preliminary vote. The human being can rank five things, they can do that, as opposed to 13 in New York. So, I'd rather the resolution said, “We don't want Ranked Choice Voting with more than five, you gotta get five.” But the second thing, which was the problem in Alaska, is I don't want more than one person to be on the ballot as the Republican or the Democrat. The party should pick who is on that ballot with the party's brand, and Alaska had a ballot with three Republicans or two Republicans as choices, and that's what confused things. The party should still be able to say, “This is our candidate that the voters should have the right to know about.” And guess what? Some independent voters will pick someone who doesn't have the R or D, and that's fine, too. So, I just felt like there could have been two specific things about Ranked Choice Voting that would have been a better resolution, you know, if I were king for a day and would be able to point out the problems.

Scott Sands 11:10

That's interesting, the way Alaska did it, and you're right, that's what I was watching, because part of me thinks, “Well, let's redo the primary system, and instead of putting the top vote-getting Democrat or the top vote-getting Republican on the other general election ballot, you let everybody run in the primary and you put the top five candidates on the ballot in Ranked Choice Voting, and then yeah, you might have three Republicans and two Democrats, but you're gonna get the top five candidates and a Ranked Choice Vote.”

John Pudner 11:43

Yes, and let me just use a quick NFL analogy since the Bengals are still alive. Don’t know how your listeners feel about that, but my argument is you can still have Republican and Democratic primaries, but you just need to add an unaffiliated candidate. So, you take your top five, no matter where they come from, and the voter also picks where they want to rank a candidate, so you still get your top five overall, that part Alaska does, but whoever's is first place in the Republican primary gets the R by their name and whoever's first place Democrat gets a D by the name. You may have three Republicans on the ballot, but you know who the party picked, so when you go to those five, you've got that and the voters have the right. I use that analogy because, for me, it's like a Wild Card in the NFL. You win your division, you get nice things, so there's a little advantage to have, but, like we occasionally in Wisconsin, where we have two strong candidates within a few points of each other, you can leave the second one on and just say, “Okay, the Republican gets the R and the other one is still one of these final five,” and I think you keep conservatives coming out and you get rid of the bad blood and primary voters saying they’re staying at home. I think there's a way to do this perfectly, It just takes a little tweaking not throwing out the system.

Scott Sands 13:09

John Pudner, President of Take Back Our Republic Action. We're gonna have you on again soon because you always have some fascinating ideas. The election is tomorrow for the RNC chair and you think Ronna is gonna win it again?

John Pudner 13:31

I do. It looks to me like Harmeet got in pretty late. She's offered a lot of good things, and I think her constructive criticism will help the party, but I think, in the end, Ronna wins. It's a secret ballot though, so who knows? I could be surprised.

Scott Sands 13:43

John, great to have you on.


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