Setting the stage for the RNC race
Americans for Tax Reform and The Daily Caller are hosting a debate today for the contenders for the Republican National Committee chairmanship. Michael Steele and the four remaining challengers are slated to take part. It comes as no surprise that Steele has insufficient support to retain his post. I would not be surprised if he drops out of the race before a humiliating showing on the first round of balloting later this month.
The first question for political watchers is: Does it matter who wins the chair? After all, the entirely dysfunctional Steele operation did not prevent a landslide win for Republicans in 2010. And a bevy of outside groups took up the fundraising slack. Nevertheless, this is not an ideal situation for a national party.
Pat Hynes, a political consultant and advisor to the John McCain presidential campaign, tells me it matters "greatly" who wins. He contends, "The RNC is responsible for two functions that cannot be executed by any other organization. The first is message coordination, which requires serious fundraising. The second is GOTV. [Getting out the vote.] Michael Steele has failed in both regards." One might add recruitment to the list of essential functions, although in the absence of a robust RNC, both the Republican House and Senate campaign committees have stepped forward to handle that task.
Others contend that the most important outcome is that there is someone other than Steele at the helm. One GOP operative says that the rallying cry now is "anyone but Steele," although he sees consolidation behind Wisconsin state chair and Steele's former general counsel Reince Priebus. Nevertheless, as John McCormack reports for the Weekly Standard, the real message may be "anybody but Steele -- or Priebus," as critics of Priebus's close association with Steele step forward.
The rest of the field consists of well-qualified, familiar Republican faces. Saul Anuzis, the Michigan state chairman, is well-liked and has a bit of flair. (Like potential 2012 presidential candidate Mitch Daniels, Anuzis rides a motorcycle.) The other two contenders are Ann Wagner (a former Missouri GOP chairwoman and a former RNC co-chair) and Maria Cino, who served in the Bush administration and has garnered support from prominent Republicans, including Dick Cheney.
But the RNC race is a strange phenomenon. All that matters is what 168 committeemen think. The bias in the past has been in favor of insiders, former chairmen and party operatives. That pattern was broken by Steele, and his disastrous tenure may only reinforce the desire for a comfortable, reliable administrative figure. If the committee is in a "fresh start" mode, Priebus (who rekindles memories of Steele) and Cino (who carries the legacy of the Bush administration, one not celebrated by hardcore conservatives) will suffer.
Stay tuned -- Right Turn will report later this afternoon from the debate.
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