Michael Steele Out (It Seems)

On Monday evening, December 13, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will hold a nationwide conference call with members of the RNC and selected political reporters.  All signs are that the former Maryland Lieutenant Governor will announce he is not seeking re-election as party chairman at the RNC’s January meeting.

To most Republican activists and those in the press who covered Steele, the chairman’s likely exodus is no surprise.  The tremendous GOP win in last month’s elections notwithstanding, Steele was someone who never learned to play “inside baseball.”  He feuded with the party’s national Treasurer Randy Pullen and other RNC members over GOP finances and never worked closely with the heads of sister party organizations such as Republican Governors Association Chairmen Haley Barbour and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Tex.).  Both Barbour and Cornyn operated separately from the RNC chairman.

Most significantly, Steele–a surprise winner over five opponents in the ’09 race for chairman–never made peace with his former foes.  To a person,  all of the ’09 chairman hopefuls publicly voiced criticism of Steele’s performance and are either running again or backing one of the candidates who announced against him.

 With the 167-member RNC set to meet in January and elect a new chairman, the declared contenders so far are. . .

Saul Anuzis:  Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman Anuzis has a long association with such conservative leaders as Newt Gingrich and the late Jack Kemp.  Well-liked, first-generation American (both parents were Lithuanian) Anuzis has already announced the names of ten RNC members who are publicly backing him. Anuzis is also praised for his mastery of Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking tools in campaigning.  Working against the Michigander is that while he was state chairman in ’06 and ’08, Democrats had major sweeps in the Water Wonderland.

Maria Cino: The New Yorker has a good reputation from being a past operating head of the National Republican Congressional Committee and national convention manager.  Already, such prominent party fixtures as former NRCC chairman Bill Paxon, former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, and Dick Cheney have weighed in for Cino.  But her biggest asset may be her biggest drawback, as some on the RNC regard her pedigree as too “establishment.”

Gentry Collins: The former RNC political director and top operative in Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign has a nationwide network of friends.  Last week, he was endorsed by Connecticut State Chairman Chris Healy, who had considered the race for RNC chairman himself.  But Collins is also criticized for reports he was planning a bid for chairman before resigning from the RNC payroll and for his closeness to Romney, who may run for president again in 2012.

Reince Priebus: The RNC General Counsel and Wisconsin State Chairman is coming off a banner year in his home-state, where the GOP won a Senate seat, the governorship, two new U.S. House seats, and control of the state legislature.  Mississippi’s Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour has endorsed Priebus–leading to some criticism that the Badger State man is too close to Henry’s uncle Haley, who is also considering a bid for President in 2012.

Ann Wagner:  The former Missouri State GOP chairman and co-chairman of the RNC has been blessed by such fellow Show Me State conservatives as Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder and Sen-elect Roy Blunt.  Social conservatives generally praise Wagner, citing her ties to Missouri Right to Life and her endorsement from Phyllis Schlafly.  Her biggest problem may be the same as many who have been off the RNC for a few years and come back to the constantly-changing committee to find they don’t know as many folks there as they used to.