Politico: Guide to the RNC Chair Race

Politico published today a pretty indepth coverage of the RNC Chair race in a pretty good article today stepping through all the major candidates. You can read it here.  The major theme of the race so far seems to be the uncertainty of how the few actual voters in this race will break versus the media predictions.

There’s still a ways to go in the race, and experienced Republicans point to the 1997 contest for RNC chair – when Jim Nicholson upset a crowded field in the party’s last competitive leadership election – as evidence that anything can happen. 

Mike Duncan– As the current committee chair, Duncan knows the party’s insiders better than anyone else in the running. And while his present term in office has left Republicans with mixed feelings – his prolific fundraising doesn’t quite make up, in some leaders’ minds, for the GOP’s devastating November losses – he’s ended on a strong note thanks to Saxby Chambliss’s victory in the Georgia Senate runoff and the GOP’s two House wins in Louisiana. 

Saul Anuzis— Among the field of candidates seeking to become the anti-Duncan, Anuzis stands out for his energetic campaigning and his emphasis on technology. The Michigan GOP chair announced his bid on Twitter and has been hammering away at the theme of tactical innovation. Multiple Republicans noted Anuzis’s big, colorful personality – he rides a Harley-Davidson and sports a goatee as an asset in a race where candidates are struggling to distinguish themselves from an ideologically homogenous field. 

Michael Steele—Steele, a former state party chair who served as Maryland’s lieutenant governor before losing a Senate race in 2006 to then-Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), is essentially tied in second place with Anuzis. Steele announced his candidacy on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity and Colmes” to great fanfare, touting his skills as a political communicator at a time when Republicans lack a high-profile leaders on the national stage. 

Katon Dawson– Running a little behind his fellow challengers, but still mounting an energetic and serious campaign, is South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson. With a better win-loss record than Anuzis and a closer rapport with RNC members than Steele or Blackwell, Dawson could ride a wave of conservative and Southern support into the late stages of balloting – particularly if the Blackwell-Benkiser gambit falls flat. 

Ken Blackwell– The former Cincinnati mayor and Ohio secretary of state entered the RNC campaign late – on December 5 – and has lagged behind the other contenders. While his candidacy hasn’t exactly caught fire, it got a potentially significant boost this week in the shape of his partnership with Benkiser, who could help Blackwell appeal to the significant social conservative bloc on the committee. 

Blackwell has also moved forward with a series of moves that appear designed to capture the RNC’s fiscal conservative vote, receiving the endorsements of publisher Steve Forbes and Club for Growth head Pat Toomey. Endorsements don’t necessarily pack much of a punch in an internal election like this one, but every little bit helps. 

Chip Saltsman– A former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and campaign manager to Mike Huckabee, Saltsman has more to gain than any other candidate from a protracted, multi-ballot knife fight for the chairmanship. The 40-year-old has been running a vigorous race against more established candidates, though he’s had to distance himself from the Huckabee campaign in a race where no one wants to support a stalking horse for 2012

What stood out most in the article though? It seems the Republican anonymous consultants see the Steele campaign as stumbling… “Steele’s campaign hasn’t gone quite the way he expected it to, according to some Republicans, who believe Steele expected his star power to carry him farther than it has in a race in which many RNC members would prefer to elect one of their own.”

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