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GOP chairman motivates state's faithful

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The chairman of the Republican National Committee is spending two days in Alabama, trying to make sure the state stays red in the 2008 national elections and helps the national party spring back from its 2006 defeats.

"2006 was very disappointing for us nationally and we are not taking anything for granted," Mike Duncan said in a phone interview.

Duncan met with party leaders Thursday afternoon in Birmingham. He plans a visit with Gov. Bob Riley on Friday and a fundraiser for the party before heading to Mississippi and Louisiana to continue his Southern swing.

He told Alabama Republicans that the national party will
help with communications, fundraising and technical support to grow the party in a state where Republicans dominate in national elections but Democrats still control most county courthouses and the Legislature.

Duncan, a 30-year veteran of GOP politics, moved up from general counsel to chairman after the party suffered heavy losses in the November 2006 election and Democrats took control of the U.S. House and Senate. As chairman, Duncan manages the party's day-to-day affairs.

and handles grass-roots organizing, while U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., serves as general chairman.

Duncan accompanied President Bush to Mobile in June for a fundraiser for Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., but the current trip is his first to do hands-on work as chairman.

Alabama has voted Republican in presidential elections since 1980, and the GOP has controlled both U.S. Senate seats and five of the seven House seats for a decade.

Duncan said Alabama remains prime territory for the GOP's message of less government, lower taxes and strong national defense. He predicts that message will help Sessions get re-elected and will keep the 2nd Congressional District in GOP hands now that Terry Everett is retiring.

But he also acknowledges "people are frustrated with the war."

Like the president, he urges patience with developments in Iraq.

"It took the American government a few years to get organized," he said.

For Alabama in the 2008 elections, the biggest change is moving the presidential primary from the end of the schedule in June to near the front on Feb. 5. The Legislature took the step to make Alabama a player in presidential politics, but now some 20 states could be on or around Feb. 5.

Duncan is concerned about the front-loading of the primary schedule, but he's opposed to the federal government taking control from the political parties, which set the rules now.

Some political experts predict the party nominees will be decided Feb. 5 because so many states are using that date. But Duncan has doubts about the GOP nominee, considering the large size of the field and the way candidates could split delegates from many states.

"I'm not sure super duper Tuesday will produce the winner this time," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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