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Gentry Collins weighing RNC Chairmanship bid

Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins has been considering whether to run for the chairmanship of the party's national committee, according to three sources familiar with his thinking, a bid that would come hard on the heels of his resignation from the RNC Tuesday.

Several senior Republican operatives confirmed that Collins is interested in seeking the chairmanship himself although how close he is to deciding one way or the other wasn't immediately clear. And, Collins has sent mixed signals of late, telling some people he has weighed the race but decided against it while keeping the option open to others.

One RNC member close to Collins said that he had heard from a number of fellow members today who were "intrigued by the prospect of a high-level operative like Gentry leading the committee."

Collins did not return an email seeking comment on his interest in the RNC chairmanship.

In announcing his departure earlier today, Collins, a former executive director of the Iowa Republican party and senior official in former Gov. Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign, sent a scathing, four-page letter to the members of the RNC detailing a laundry list of mistakes made by Chairman Michael Steele.

"If left on its current path, the RNC will not be a productive force in the 2012 campaign to deny President Obama a second term, retain our House majority and elect a Senate majority," Collins wrote.

The letter -- and Collins' resignation -- was first reported by Jonathan Martin of Politico.

Collins' main point of criticism was the RNC's fundraising operation and, in particular, Steele's alleged inability to attract major donors. "During the 2010 cycle, the RNC allowed its major donor base to wither," wrote Collins -- adding that the committee had raised $284 million in the 2002 cycle and $243 million in the 2006 cycle as compared to just $170 million in 2010. (One note: Republicans controlled the White House in 2002 and 2006, a major fundraising boon for the national party committees.)

"For the first time in 16 years, the Republican Party held neither the White House or either chamber of Congress," the RNC said in a statement. "Despite lacking that fundraising advantage, the RNC was able to raise more than $175 million, over $24 million more than the RNC raised during the entire 1994 cycle and over $36 million more than the DNC raised during the entire 2006 cycle, indexed for inflation."

The RNC was set to announce late Tuesday that it has hired to new senior political advisors -- Jon Seaton, a national field director for the McCain campaign and a former RNC staffer, and John Peschong, a senior strategist for both McCain and former President George W. Bush.

Collins also critiqued the spending of the committee; "too much of the nearly 30-cents-on-the-dollar on fundraising was spent on things other than winning elections," he wrote.

Former Michigan Republican party chairman Saul Anuzis, who is already in the race to challenge Steele, called the Collins' resignation letter "devastating" to the incumbent's chances of winning a second term.

Henry Barbour, a committeeman from Mississippi who has been leading the effort to recruit a challenger to Steele, said that Collins was "well-respected by RNC members and Party workers", adding: "He makes the most powerful case for Michael to not run for re-election. The details in his memo significantly change the dynamics of the RNC Chairman's race."

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican party who has been mentioned as a candidate, did not return a call for comment on Collins' resignation and possible candidacy.

Steele has yet to formally announce whether he will run again but most Republican observers expect that he will. Steele has tested his level of support in a phone call with his most ardent loyalists over the last few days.

His first two years in office have been defined by a series of verbal gaffes, senior-level staff departures and a growing frustration from the GOP establishment about Steele's stewardship of the party's flagship committee.

By Chris Cillizza  | November 16, 2010; 3:38 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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Next: Afternoon Fix: Rangel convicted of breaking 11 rules; RNC political director weighs run against Steele; Bush says Cheney was the 'right pick'

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