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Michael Steele draws first challenger in RNC Chair race

Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis announced this morning that he will run to be chairman of the Republican National Committee, becoming the first -- though almost certainly not the last -- candidate in the race against Michael Steele.

"We cannot be misled by our victories this year," Anuzis wrote in an announcement posted on his blog. "Chairman Steele's record speaks for itself. He has his way of doing things. I have mine."

Anuzis, clearly hoping to emerge as the choice of the anti-Steele forces within the 168 member Republican National Committee added that "I will NOT strive to be the voice or the face of our party" -- seeking to draw a direct contrast with high profile (and gaffe prone) current chairman.

This is the second time Anuzis is making a bid to lead his party. He ran and lost in 2009, dropping out after the fifth ballot.

In addition to Anuzis, there are at least four other people making calls to RNC members to test the waters for a bid, according to an informed source on the committee. That quartet includes: Wisconsin Republican party chairman Reince Priebus, who managed Steele's 2009 RNC campaign, veteran GOP strategist Maria Cino, Connecticut Republican party chairman Chris Healy and former Ambassador Ann Wagner.

While it's not clear whether any -- or all -- of those candidates will run, many people are looking at next week's Republican Governors Association gathering in San Diego as a time when people either need to be in or out.

There is significant concern among the anti-Steele forces that a crowded field could splinter the vote in enough pieces to allow him to be reelected.

"There is a concerted effort to coalesce behind the strongest contender if Steele stays in the race," said one committee member in the anti-Steele camp. "There is a fear that too many candidates plays to Steele's advantage. If Steele sees the writing on the wall, it will be the wild, wild west."

Steele, who has yet to formally announce whether he intends to run again, is widely assumed to have between 50 and 60 solid votes for a second term. He would need 85, a simply majority of the 168 voting members of the committee.

By Chris Cillizza  | November 12, 2010; 8:23 AM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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