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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/22/2010

Reince Priebus weighs RNC bid

By Chris Cillizza

1. Wisconsin Republican party chairman Reince Priebus is actively mulling a bid for the Republican National Committee chairmanship and is receiving encouragement from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) among others.

"I've been asked to seriously consider it by many members of the committee and I am doing just that," Priebus told the Fix. "There are many factors that go into this decision and I will be taking the time over Thanksgiving to discuss this further with my family and others."

While Priebus has yet to make a final decision on the contest, he is already winning praise from powerful supporters including Gingrich.

"I have worked with him for a number of years and the pickup of governor, senator, two House seats and control of the state house and senate was a profound victory in a historically difficult state," Gingrich said of Priebus.

Priebus also appears to be lining up powerful supporters within the 168 members of the Republican National Committee.

Pat Brady, the Illinois Republican Party chairman, pledged his support to Priebus, describing him as a "low-key, no-nonsense guy" who understands "how to manage an effective political organization."

Both Priebus and Brady were members of RNC Chairman Michael Steele's kitchen cabinet during his successful campaign for the post in 2009. (Steele has yet to indicate whether he will run for a second term but most sharp RNC observers believe he couldn't win even if he ran.)

Henry Barbour, a committeeman from Mississippi and nephew of Gov. Haley Barbour, has been encouraging Priebus to consider a challenge to Steele and said the Wisconsin chairman as well as Republican Governors Association executive director Nick Ayers were his two preferred candidates for chair. (Ayers has expressed no interest in the job.)

"I am eager to see all the prospective candidates go out and see what sort of support they can build and then let's see where we are in about a month," Barbour said.

The only announced candidate against Steele at the moment is former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis. Aside from Priebus, former RNC political director Gentry Collins, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring and Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy are all contemplating RNC bids.

2. Virginia Republicans decided this weekend that they will nominate their 2012 Senate candidate in a primary, rather than a convention.

Most observers believe the decision, which was made Saturday at a party meeting in McLean, will help former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) win the nomination, as convention processes are much more susceptible to upsets and tend to reward the most conservative candidate.

Allen is seen as a likely contender and the favorite to run for Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) seat, though other less-established politicians are also weighing runs, including Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, state Del. Bob Marshall and former congressional candidate Bert Mizusawa.

Stewart, notably, came out publicly in favor of a convention process. Marshall favored a primary. Despite his stance, it was at a convention in 2008 where the underfunded Marshall nearly pulled off a shocking upset of former Gov. Jim Gilmore for the party's Senate nomination. Gilmore angered some activists because he wasn't conservative enough for them on abortion rights, and he wound up with a very narrow victory.

Webb, who unseated Allen in 2006, is undecided about whether he will run for reelection. Regardless of his decision, his seat will be a top GOP target in 2012.

3. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) trails Republican Ann Marie Buerkle by 567 votes, with almost all absentee ballots now counted in their still unresolved race in upstate New York.

Buerkle picked up 269 votes when totals from Wayne County were added to the mix, helping her regain some of the hundreds of votes she ceded in Onondaga County during the earlier portion of the absentee count.

With almost all absentee ballots tabulated, the campaigns will battle in court on Tuesday over challenged absentees. But most of those went for Buerkle, so she is likely to gain even more votes when they are added to the mix.

Buerkle isn't yet declaring victory, saying she will let the legal process play out.

"While we remain confident that Ann Marie Buerkle will emerge the victor, we need to allow the process to proceed as set forth in the original court proceedings initiated by the Maffei campaign," Buerkle's campaign said in a statement.

A Maffei spokeswoman did not comment Sunday evening.

A Buerkle win would give Republicans a net gain of 62 House seats, with four other races still yet to be decided.

4. Former Nevada Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) indicated over the weekend that she remains optimistic about her political future despite losing to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in this month's Senate race.

In an interview with the Lahontan Valley News, Angle said that she may run for the sprawling 2nd District seat of Rep. Dean Heller (R) if Heller decides to wage a primary challenge against beleaguered Sen. John Ensign (R). Heller has hinted at a potential run but hasn't made any firm indication about his plans.

Should Angle decide to run, she could start off as a strong potential GOP contender; she ran against Heller for the seat in the 2006 primary, losing by just 421 votes. But as the 2010 campaign post-mortems come rolling in, it's worth noting that one factor Angle will have to deal with regarding a future bid is her Nevada-based campaign team, which has come under harsh criticism from national GOP operatives.

There's also some speculation that Angle might run for state Senate or choose to run against Ensign in the primary if Heller doesn't jump into the Senate race. Angle herself hasn't closed the door to any of those possibilities, telling the Lahontan Valley News: "I will always be involved in politics. I have a lot of options next cycle."

5. Outgoing Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who ran unsuccessfully for the seat of term-limited Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) this cycle, is being mentioned as a possible challenger to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D).

"Lots of people have talked to me about that, but we just got through a grueling race," the 2nd District congressman told the Grand Rapids Press. Hoekstra added that it's "very nice" that people are urging him to run but that he and his wife "are pre-disposed to say 'no.'"

Hoekstra was endorsed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) in the GOP governor's primary and enjoys strong support among social conservatives. Rep. Mike Rogers (R) is another name that has been floated as a potential challenger against Stabenow.

Democrats' fortunes in the economically hard-hit states of the Rust Belt have declined, and Republicans view Stabenow, who will be running for her third term in 2012, as vulnerable.

One boost for Stabenow came late last week, however, when she announced that she is slated to head up the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 112th Congress following the departure of the current chair, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who lost her re-election bid earlier this month.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | November 22, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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