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December, 13th 2010

Monday morning RNC Chair thoughts

– Liz Mair

If it's Monday morning, it's time for some more RNC Chair-related gossip, and as I sometimes do in these posts, I'll start off by quoting from Politico's Playbook, which today was sent out at 8:11 AM ET.  It begins:

Good Monday morning. EXCLUSIVE: On a 7:30 p.m. conference call, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is expected to announce he won’t seek reelection when the committee picks a new chairman at its winter meeting next month. Friends warn that you never know with Steele, but confide that he has sent them the clear signal he’s dropping out. That's based in part on the erosion, in the last week, of votes he had been counting on.

Not to be a pain in the ass, but it's worth noting that this information was available via Fox News and then various users on Twitter as early as... 9-something-PM ET last night.  A bit of a let-down to start the morning off-- though I'm sure more information about precisely what Steele will say tonight will come to light throughout the day.

More helpfully, Playbook moves on to report that Norm Coleman is seriously considering jumping into the race, and that Coleman sees his greatest strength as a would-be contender as his fundraising record.  That's useful information and interesting, though it raises a couple of questions for me.  First, as Minnesota's Chairman, Tony Sutton, was one of the first folks announced as a Reince Priebus supporter, a) will Coleman enter a race where he doesn't have the full support of the entirety of his home-state delegation or b) does Sutton plan to switch his support to Coleman should he announce?  Enquiring minds want to know...    

And enquiring minds also want to know what Coleman's chances of winning really would be, given two other points.  First, it bears noting that Coleman is not a member of the committee, and the committee's experience with outsiders has, shall we say, been less than brilliant lately. Second, Coleman is definitely perceived by at least a few on the committee to favor a particular potential presidential contender (ahem).  That impression may be bogus (I can't say I've spoken to Norm Coleman anytime recently), but nonetheless, it seems to persist-- and that, in combination with Coleman's non-club membership makes me query exactly how strong a challenge he could present to, say, Priebus or Maria Cino (who is a non-committee member but considered a virtual committee member by some of the 168). 

And on which note, Playbook also reports that Maria Cino has entered the race (happened last week, for those who missed it) and speculates as to the possibility that Mike Duncan, my old boss, might jump in, saying that if he did, it would be an indicator that Duncan's "patron," Karl Rove, wants to control the RNC again.

Note that carefully: Karl Rove.  That should set Democratic and liberal brains a-exploding immediately, even if there are a couple issues with the way Playbook sets this up, in my opinion.

First, while Duncan and Rove obviously know each other in more than a passing, casual acquaintance kind of way, I think the idea of dubbing Rove the "patron" of someone who has been involved in Republican politics since Rove was wearing short trousers, who was a key driving force behind American Crossroads as a fundraising powerhouse (whereas Rove's involvement was far more minimal), and who has been a member of the RNC for quite some time (and indeed was Chairman of it) is, well, probably not the best wording that could have been chosen, among other things.  

But second, and more critically, the way Playbook sets this out seems to ignore or at least skim over a great, big, hulking fact that a bunch of folks either deeply covering this race as their main beat or very familiar with some key players in it know well: A lot of folks on and off the committee who like the idea of a second Duncan chairmanship are the same people who like Maria Cino, too-- and it's not just the Bush-Cheney crowd (or Karl Rove!), either, for what that's worth. 

That's an important thing to bear in mind, generally, as this process moves forward, and as candidates' prospects are being weighed up.  Onward, toward January 14th. [intro]

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