As he contemplates running for a second term, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is on the verge of losing his coalition of supporters. Even some of those closest to the controversial chairman have begun urging him to step aside.
Strategists familiar with the RNC who both support and oppose Steele agree there are between 40 and 50 of the 168 voters who will back Steele for a second term. Another 40 to 50 members will definitely vote for someone else. The remaining members, numbering between 88 and 68, are undecided.Meanwhile, a group of prominent Republicans led by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie are searching for a consensus candidate capable of defeating Steele.
What names are emerging as the anti-Steele coalition?
Prominent RNC members have approached Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus about the possibility of running for national chairman...
Among those discussing names to replace Steele: Rove, Gillespie, former RNC chairman Mike Duncan, Ohio party chairman Kevin DeWine, Mississippi national committeeman Henry Barbour (nephew of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour), Massachusetts national committeeman Ron Kaufman and Michigan national committeeman Saul Anuzis. The group had been hesitant to knock Steele in public before the midterms, but they no longer feel bound to keep such criticism inside the family.
Michigan's Saul Anuzis isn't merely "discussing names" -- he's throwing his hat into the ring. I received an email from Anuzis this morning announcing his decision to challenge Steele for the RNC top spot:
America must elect a new President. It is that hope, that necessity, that challenge, that draws me to announce my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.
I don’t take lightly the fact that I am challenging a friend and colleague for the Chairmanship. When Michael was elected Chairman, I was the only candidate who stepped forward to attend the next morning’s RNC breakfast meeting, agreed to join the transition team, and later took on several roles as a team player on the RNC…and have attended every meeting since.
Given my involvement and efforts to help over the past two years, it was not an easy decision for me to seek the post. As someone who believes in loyalty, my natural instinct would be to sit this out. But the simple fact is that the overriding challenge we face is winning back the Presidency in 2012 and we will not accomplish that objective unless there is dramatic change in the way the RNC does business.
I attended a function earlier in the week at which Michael Steele spoke. It's clear that he has every intention of running for a second term as Party Chair; a good portion of his remarks served as a de facto stump speech. He defended his fundraising efforts, his expenditures, and his voter outreach strategies.
This race will hinge on a central question: Do voting members of the committee believe the GOP made massive gains this year because of -- or at least, with a lot of important help from -- Michael Steele, or did the Republican wave strike despite his leadership of the party?