The RNC Chair Fight Begins
UPDATED, 5:55 p.m. ET: Since we wrote this post, a number of other names have been floated including three who seem all but certain candidates: current Republican National Committee Chair Mike Duncan, former Maryland Lieutenant Gov. Michael Steele and Chip Saltsman, the former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and the presidential campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. It could be a VERY crowded field (we have heard other names but either don't deem the chatter credible or are waiting for more information) a la the DNC Chair race in early 2005 that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean eventually won.
One day after suffering a sweeping defeat in the presidential race and losing ground to Democrats in Congress, the Republican Party's tectonic plates are beginning to shift in earnest.
In the House, Minority Leader John Boehner is circulating a letter to his colleagues asking them for their support to remain in his current post ("It's time for the losing to stop," Boehner wrote. "And my commitment to you is that it will."); Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor is running for minority whip -- setting up a potential challenge to his one-time mentor Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt; Florida Rep. Adam Putnam resigned as GOP Conference chairman late night and already Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) has announced his intention to seek that post.
On the national level, the fight is also underway to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee -- although none of the candidates have formally announced their intentions yet.
The new chairman will be picked at the RNC's Winter Meeting in January 2009 by 168 national committeemen and women. Here's our latest look at the field:
• Jim Nussle: The former Iowa congressman and current director of the Office of Management and Budget is the new name in the mix. He served in Congress from 1990 until 2006, when he left his eastern Iowa seat to run for governor. Initially considered one of the party's strongest candidates nationwide, Nussle's campaign underperformed and he lost to Gov. Chet Culver. Strength: Iowa -- and the Midwest generally -- is a central political battleground in 2010 and beyond. Weakness: Nussle is abrasive (at times) and has made a fair number of enemies during his political career.
• Katon Dawson: Dawson, the high profile chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, has been the most clear about his intention to seek the RNC chairmanship. To that end, he organized a meeting in Myrtle Beach later this month designed to bring together Republican leaders to discuss the future of the party. Strength: Dawson is extremely aggressive, well liked by conservatives and a regular presence on national cable programs already. Weakness: South Carolina is not exactly a swing state.
• Jim Greer: Greer, the chairman of the Florida Republican Party, had a mixed bag of results last night. On the one hand, Barack Obama carried the state and Republicans lost two House incumbents -- Reps. Ric Keller and Tom Feeney -- in the Orlando area. On the other, the Diaz-Balert brothers, both of whom were heavily targeted by national Democrats, held on to win, and the GOP easily defeated Rep. Tim Mahoney (D). Democrats also made minimal gains in the Florida legislature. Strength: Greer knows the importance of fundraising and his ties to Florida would ensure the RNC would be well funded. Weakness: Greer is regarded as a moderate within a party whose rank and file remain decidedly conservative.
• Saul Anuzis: Anuzis is the cheerful, press-friendly chairman of the Michigan Republican party; Anuzis' "That's Saul, Folks!" blog is entertaining and well named. In a posting this morning on the blog, Anuzis certainly sounded like a candidate for the RNC chairmanship, writing: "Our challenge going forward is to renew the faith of the American people in our party. We are the party that represents the best hopes of America. Unfortunately, some of our elected leaders broke faith with the American people, on so many of our Republican core issues, that Republicans lost the ability to appeal to middle class families." Strength: Anuzis is well-connected in to the political chattering class in Washington, having spent years building relationships. Weakness: Republicans' collapse in Michigan -- Obama won 57 percent of the vote, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin was reelected with 63 percent and GOP Reps. Tim Walberg and Joe Knollenberg both lost -- could raise questions about Anuzis' political chops.
November 5, 2008; 4:11 PM ET
Categories: Eye on 2008
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