Members of the Republican National Committee will vote today to determine who will be their next chairman. Current RNC Chairman Michael Steele has been dogged throughout his two-year tenure by claims of poor management, cronyism, and poor handling of the party’s finances and major donors. It’s time for the party to head in the “right” direction. This effort began with the November elections. It should continue with the RNC members electing a new chairman.
As noted in a Associated Press story on GOPUSA, the 168-member RNC is meeting in Washington, DC, and its top order of business is to elect a new chairman and co-chairman. Current GOP Chairman Michael Steele is seeking reelection. His opponents are:
–Reince Priebus, the Wisconsin Republican Party chairman who ran Steele’s chairmanship bid in 2009. He broke with Steele to run against him and has the backing of several GOP insiders. Priebus argues that fixing the RNC’s finances is a top priority; critics accuse him of ignoring the money problem when he was close to Steele.
–Maria Cino, a New York native and a veteran party operative who served in the Bush administration and was a top planner of the 2008 Republican nominating convention. She has cast herself as a turn-around specialist when it comes to fixing troubled national party organizations.
–Ann Wagner, a former Missouri state GOP chair who was an RNC co-chairwoman from 2001 to 2005 and was once an ambassador under George W. Bush. She argues that the RNC is broken and needs to completely re-evaluate how it operates.
–Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who lost to Steele two years ago. Savvy with social networking, Anuzis argues that the RNC must be competitive on the technology front to have a chance at toppling Obama.
The incoming chairman will face a daunting task. As I wrote in my Political Wish List for the New Year, the RNC “begins the 2011-12 presidential election cycle more than $20 million in the hole.” This is the RNC’s worst debt problem ever.
The Washington Times reports that because of lack of significant confirmed support for the incumbent chairman, Steele is being urged “to consider a graceful exit strategy.”
It is widely believed among RNC members that Mr. Steele actually has as many as 20 more supporters on the committee who will at least give him their first-ballot votes — bringing his total to about 50, still some 35 votes short of the 85 needed to win.
But incumbents tend to fare poorly if they don’t win right out of the chute.
Kentucky RNC member Mike Duncan, for example, led Mr. Steele 52-46 on the first ballot in Mr. Duncan’s bid to hold onto his RNC chairmanship in January 2009. But he dropped to a 48-48 tie with Mr. Steele on the second ballot and trailed him by 44-51 on the third ballot. Mr. Duncan then dropped out of the five-way race, which Mr. Steele won on the sixth ballot.
According to a tally presented on National Review, Reince Priebus is leading with 43 public endorsements, Steele is in second place with 28 public endorsements. Anuzis has 16, Wagner has 15, and Cino has 12.
Just as the country needed a new direction after a few years of Obama and the Democrats, the RNC needs a new direction as well. This will not come by keeping the same leader. It’s time for a change.
UPDATE: Voting is underway for the RNC Chair position:
Now it begins to shake out in Round 2:
UPDATE: Michael Steele has withdrawn from the race for Republican National Chairman.