Interview with Former Republican Party National Committeeman Tom Rath
By Katherine Buck '20 | August 30, 2020
Tom Rath is a former Republican Party National Committeeman for New Hampshire. Rath could not recall a convention that stood out among the others, but he did note a moment at the 1988 Convention when George H.W. Bush was the nominee in Houston, TX. The third day before Bush’s acceptance speech Rath recalls seeing President Reagan coming in for his address. He anticipated that this might not be a great moment for Reagan as he was getting older, but Reagan impressed both Rath and the crowd with a poised speech. Rath noted, “He was a political performer who could light up the room.”
The conventions were a place to gather and get people excited about the ticket. Today, they are a very long, often expensive process. Rath says he enjoyed the conventions as this was a chance to see people in the party and the press corps he had worked with for years. He believes this year's pandemic may alter the future of conventions, and we may begin to ask if we really need one. He notes that politics has transitioned from being collegial to being driven by communications and media, noting there is less interaction between people.
During his time serving as the Republican Party National Committeeman for New Hampshire, Rath believes his greatest accomplishment was the fact he and his colleagues kept New Hampshire as the first-in-the-nation primary state. People wanted to take it away, and came close to doing so at the 2000 Republican Convention in Philadelphia when former President George W. Bush was nominated. Initially the rules committee voted to change the first-in-the-nation primary, but Bush got involved and got the vote change. Today, New Hampshire still remains as the first in the nation primary.