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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.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 5, 2008; 4:11 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Political Take: Obama Wins, What's Next?
Next: Wag the Blog: What Should Obama's First Priority Be?


The biggest problem the GOP has was clearly stated here when one of the candidates was said to have the "weakness" of being moderate. As long as the GOP thinks being moderate is a weakness, they'll remain in the minority. Maybe it will help them realize what REAL minorities go through in their everyday life. Maybe the GOP will learn firsthand what be discriminated against is like. Maybe then they could really become the Government Of the People.

Posted by: katem1 | November 7, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Chip Saltsman better not win! That's the same guy who thought it was a good idea to tout the dumbass Mike Huckabee as qualified to be President because he was THE "CHRISTIAN LEADER." Saltsman proved to be as religiously bigoted against Mormons as the moron Mike Up-Chuck-abee.

I also can't think of a single positive thing that Saltsman added to the McCain Campaign once he joined them. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was Saltsman who has been leaking all of those negative rumors about Governor Palin in order to help his floating cross denying candidate win.

Btw, Up-Chuck-abee didn't raise taxes & didn't call people who support stronger border security racists. Yeah right!

I choose guilt by association on this one. And I give that jerk Saltsman a big thumbs-down to lead the RNC along with anybody else even remotely involved in the Up-Chuck-abee Campaign!

Posted by: TylerMott | November 7, 2008 2:55 AM | Report abuse

How did you forget former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich? I've heard from several sources that he's gunning for the job. Former Senator Fred Thompson would also be a great pick!

Posted by: fkpaxson | November 6, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Maybe the hate-mongering 37thAndCongress can stop perpetuating the stereotype and actually post an idea to contribute.

That would be a switch, and might break his hard-felt bitterness that he and his lost big time.

I'm not optimistic, but it might be interesting or even useful.

For those who think I just fed a troll (37thAndCongress) - you're probably right, but the pathetic bitterness just got to me today.

Posted by: DonJasper | November 6, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Most of the "back to basics" op-ed's that I've read define basics as: "secular small government" aka libertarian.

They address Sarah Palin and the Evangelical movement she represents with dis-interested omission. I don't think that'll fly.

Posted by: DonJasper | November 6, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh, fun. We get to see them picnic on each other. Hoooooo rah.

Gee, I didn't see Sarah Palin's name mentioned.

What? Oh. She's out looking for a brain. Then she has to find a constituency.

Posted by: itsagreatday1 | November 6, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Go back to Alaska, John, and beat your drum on the stage in Wasilla's First Christian special Creation oil reserves.

Posted by: owldog | November 6, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Todd Palin should be the next leader of the Republican Party. He has all the qualifications of his dear wife AND he is a champion snow machine racer. Brains, athletic prowess, he is just what this party is in desperate need of.

John Hinderaker

Posted by: jhinderaker | November 6, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Rahm Emmanuel may not be the best person from a philosophical disposition, but he is a brilliant strategist and the party owes much success to him.

One need not worry about his ideological influence, Barry de man.

Posted by: owldog | November 6, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Obviously to those who don't have health insurance, this is number one, literally a life and death matter.

For starters, The impending "trickle up" stimulus package can include a generous supplement for States to beef up their Medicaid programs. Our household made $9,000 last year and my wife got kicked off medicaid because I got a lump money Social Security Disability owed me.

My State is cutting back and once you get kicked off Medicaid, you cannot get back on, even if your future income is less.

Posted by: owldog | November 6, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

It would be helpful if The Fix were to include a brief blurb on each of these guys (who are all guys, I can't help but notice) summarizing their location on the ideological map. That will give us a bit more insight into where they would take the party. The open question is whether the GOP wants to have any moderate members. Will the leadership move the party back towards the middle, or will they try to move further right? A significant number of conservatives seem to think that Sen McCain wasn't conservative enough - and would have done better, or won, had he been more conservative. Will that group take control of the party, or clearer heads?

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 6, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I thought McCain did about as well as he could under the circumstances: heavily outspent and with the news media openly supporting his opponent. The only change we are likely to get with Obama is whatever spare change we will still have after he raises taxes.

Posted by: brewstercounty | November 6, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Just spend a year under about a hundred thousand signs saying CHANGE and what is the first thing Obama does? He wants a top Clinton Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff.... SAME SAME SAME

Posted by: DorchesterAndCongress

Translation from Republican speak into english= WAH WAH WAH. So please just grow up or fade away. Or, as Dylan said in song so long ago, " get out of new one if you can't lend a hand," (loosely paraphrased.

This sore loser mentality is just juvenile

Posted by: Thatsnuts | November 6, 2008 7:35 AM | Report abuse





The truth is this: the litmus test of commitment to change is commitment to campaign finance reform and Obama has failed miserably.


We now have a situation in which campaign finance reform has been destroyed by the change candidate. Orwellian?

Sorry guys.

It would be wise to distinquish the actual mood of the country turning left as opposed to the electoral advantage of a $210 million ad campaign v. McCain's $70 million ad campaign. The reality on the ground simply does not match the votes when one factors out that disparity and the economic situation. AND to be honest I really do not believe the American people know who Obama is or what he is about - the media has gone to great lengths to overlook and overshadow the truth.





Posted by: DorchesterAndCongress | November 6, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Obama is showing how much of an empty suit he is by going for Rahm Emmanuel right away - this is signaling that this is simply a re-trend of the Clinton wonks who knew everything better than everyone else.

What has changed?

The democrats took control of Congress in 2007 and everything started to tank.

The stock market forsaw an Obama win and lost 30% of its value in a few weeks.

Wall Street showed its confidence in Obama yesterday by dropping another 480 points in one day. Funny how the front pages covered Wall Street so closely in October to manufacture a "sense of crisis" and now when the Dow signals a lack of confidence in Obama it is off the front page.




Posted by: DorchesterAndCongress | November 6, 2008 5:38 AM | Report abuse

Re: Saul Anuzis

He's also managed to take what was supposed to be a bullet-proof redistricting map for the state House GOP in Michigan and turn it into a 67-43 advantage for the Democrats.

He's be the perfect the choice if the national GOP would like to make a conscious decision to further run their party into the ground by pursuing narrow, ideological interests.

Posted by: edwardlahoa | November 5, 2008 10:30 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: scrivener50 | November 5, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse




Just spend a year under about a hundred thousand signs saying CHANGE and what is the first thing Obama does? He wants a top Clinton Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff.... SAME SAME SAME




Posted by: DorchesterAndCongress | November 5, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

A great deal of hostility toward the GOP today from the liberals - the post-partisan future is here and you have seen it: the angry liberal staying the angry liberal.




Posted by: DorchesterAndCongress | November 5, 2008 8:32 PM | Report abuse



I love the vagueness of this whole thing: it is the beginning of something new which is so much better - but WHAT? Besides more government programs and higher taxes what is this the beginning of???




Posted by: DorchesterAndCongress | November 5, 2008 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I am for Steele. An empty suit like him will finish off what's left of the GOP.

Posted by: lunasea | November 5, 2008 6:44 PM | Report abuse

If the Repubs want to regroup it's time they got rid of guys like Boehner.

Posted by: JRM2 | November 5, 2008 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Though there are a lot of Republicans angry with McCain they can thank him for one thing, he gave them a political star in Sarah Palin who otherwise would have wallowed in obscurity.

Posted by: JRM2 | November 5, 2008 6:43 PM | Report abuse

The tea leaves for the future of the Democrats will be decided by who fills these Republican leadership posts.

They can move further right, hunkering down on social issues, more trickle down economics, more deregulation (aka government is the problem), emphasizing policies that further alienate Hispanics, etc..., then they will be voluntarily moving into a southern ghetto as Republicans in the West and Great Lakes slowly lose their grip on their seats. Their remaining base will both love the rhetoric and the opportunity to be permanently "oppressed" by the nation as a whole. Never underestimate the siren call of martyrdom.

Or they can sober up and move back towards the middle and fill these posts with moderates, assuming they can 1) find some and 2) find some who do not think the party is doomed and are dead set on landing a nice corporate/law job somewhere.

Posted by: caribis | November 5, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm… Cantor or Blunt… I'm guessing they couldn't find a third more arrogant or off-putting candidate to go for the job.

Thank you, Republicans – side by side with Boehner either one of these guys will cause millions to run away screaming.

Posted by: FlownOver | November 5, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

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