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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/13/2010

Decision Day for Michael Steele at RNC?

By Chris Cillizza

1. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will hold a conference call with supporters tonight where he is widely expected to announce whether he will seek a second term in his current post.

Steele alerted RNC members of the conference call on Saturday night. If Steele is, in fact, running for a second term, a conference call would be an odd way of going about it.

Sources close to the situation say Steele has done little to get a new campaign off the ground. But, one Republican insider who has spoken directly to Steele in recent days says the chairman is planning to run again.

Steele has grown increasingly isolated from his political advisers over the past few months, a fact that makes it difficult to divine his intentions about a second term as chairman.

The announced candidates so far are former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, former RNC co-chairwoman Ann Wagner, former RNC official Gentry Collins and Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus.

Former RNC official Maria Cino added her name to the list Saturday, and boasts strong backing from the political strategist set. (It's not clear whether that support will translate to strength among the 168 members of the RNC.)

It's not immediately clear how much of an impact Steele's decision -- whatever it is -- will have on the race. Estimates of his support on the committee vary widely but never go above 50 (or so) votes, well short of the 85 votes he would need to claim a second term.

2. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski appears to be edging closer to victory in her race against attorney Joe Miller (R) following a judge's ruling on Friday against Miller's challenge of the vote-counting process.

Alaska Superior Court Judge William Carey ruled that Miller had not proven his claim that there had been widespread fraud in the race.

Miller's camp has until tomorrow to appeal the case to the state supreme court; Miller spokesperson Randy DeSoto said on Friday that a decision on whether to appeal was "under advisement."

Even if Miller were to succeed in getting 8,000 or so challenged ballots thrown out, he would still trail Murkowski by more than 2,000 votes.

Murkowski has also joined up with the state in pushing for a judge to lift the federal injunction that prevents the certification of the election results.

Following a loss to Miller in the Aug. 24 primary, Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate for Senate. Should her victory be affirmed this week, Murkowski would be the first person to win a write-in candidacy for Senate since Strom Thurmond in 1954.

3. As chatter about a potential 2012 primary challenger to President Obama continues, both White House senior adviser David Axelrod and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean sounded the same note on Sunday: It ain't going to happen.

In an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Axelrod expressed skepticism that Obama might face a challenge from the left.

"I really don't," Axelrod responded when asked whether he expected Obama to face a primary challenge. "I mean, I can't predict -- obviously, anybody can file for an office -- but I see strong support among Democrats for this president. They understand that he's fighting hard, trying hard to move this country forward. They understand what we've accomplished already."

Dean, who has been floated by some as a potential primary challenger, also dismissed the idea Sunday.

"I don't think he's going to face an opponent in the Democratic primary," Dean said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I think that would be a bad thing for the country and I think it would be a bad thing for the Democratic Party. The history of people running against presidents in their own party is the challenger loses and then the president is weakened and loses."

Despite all of the speculation, the notion of a primary challenge to Obama seems a distant possibility: Many potential contenders have tamped down on rumors that they might run, and the one Democrat who has openly acknowledged looking at the race, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel (D), wouldn't be likely to pose a big threat to Obama.

4. The race to succeed retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) heats up this week as the Chicago Elections Board is set to hold its first hearings regarding the residency challenges facing former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (D).

More than 30 people have filed legal challenges claiming that Emanuel does not meet the necessary residency requirement in order to run for Chicago mayor.

Emanuel had lived in Washington from early 2009 (when his White House tenure began) until October 2010 (when he resigned from the administration to run for mayor).

Emanuel's opponents claim that he abandoned his Chicago residency by renting out his home during that time; Emanuel's camp counters that his car is licensed in Chicago, he pays property taxes in the city and he votes in the city -- all of which prove his intent to remain a resident.

On Saturday, Emanuel's camp released a slew of tax records, emails and other documents ahead of this week's hearings. One of the documents most likely to be scrutinized is Emanuel's tax return; the records show that Emanuel amended his original 2009 return once it became clear that he would face challenges to his residency.

At Tuesday's hearing, Emanuel is slated to be the first witness and is likely to face several hours of questioning.

Emanuel got a boost late last week when state Comptroller Dan Hynes (D), who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic gubernatorial nod earlier this year, endorsed his candidacy.

5. Like trivia? Like politics? Then come on down to the Capitol Lounge tonight at 7 p.m. for "Politics and Pints"-- our monthly trivia contest.

You can RSVP on our Facebook event page or just show up but make sure to get there early because the tables fill up fast.

As a special gift for ALL trivia participants, we are giving away "Politics and Pints" tumblers!

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | December 13, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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