Guy Benson
As Washington awaits Michael Steele's announcement on his future with the party, two new candidates have officially entered the RNC Chairmanship race:

Former RNC political director Gentry Collins made official his bid for the post today, less than a month after quitting while issuing a stern rebuke of Steele's fundraising practices.

Collins will make his bid official in a letter to be delivered today to the 168 RNC members, the FrumForum reported.

Meanwhile, former Republican convention chief executive officer Maria Cino announced she would launch her long-expected campaign in another letter to members.

Both Collins and Cino have been taking clear steps toward a run for weeks. Collins, who quit his post at the RNC in mid-November, has begun traveling the country and collecting endorsements. Cino has support from several prominent Republicans, holding a fundraiser with former Vice President Dick Cheney and former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, among other prominent party officials.

As the Hotline report suggests, neither contender's entry comes as a great surprise to DC insiders.  If, as expected, Steele announces that he won't seek a second term as the RNC's top dog, the current field of candidates will stand at five, and will likely continue to grow.  Whomever will serve as the next chairman ought to be prepared to roll up his or her sleeves and do some heavy duty fundraising.  Why?  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza examines the numbers and concludes President Obama could spend...wait for it...one billion dollars on his re-election bid.


UPDATE:  NBC News compiles a list of Michael Steele's top ten gaffes, which seems a tad gratuitous.  

UPDATE II:  Fox now reports that multiple sources say Steele is preparing to stay in the game and run for a second term.  If true, his decision would constitute a rather dramatic reversal of Beltway conventional wisdom:

Ending weeks of rumors that he would not seek a second term, Steele plans to throw his hat into the ring during a conference call with RNC members at 7:30 p.m. ET, the sources said. Steele is said to be amused by false reports of his retirement and intentionally kept his plans secret for the last month in order to flush out competitors for the post, Fox has learned.

UPDATE III: If Steele does run for re-election, and more reports are surfacing that he will, expect the data illustrated in this chart (courtesy of Jay Cost at the Weekly Standard) to get heavy play from Steele's opponents:



Be sure to read Cost's prematurely titled write-up to put these bar graphs in meaningful context.  Also, since it appears that Steele will remain in the game, NBC's top ten list (linked above) seems slightly less mean spirited.


UPDATE IV: Steele's announcement is expected momentarily.  A conference call is scheduled for 7:30pm ET.

Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography