Michael Steele speaks at RNC Chair Elections on January 30, 2009.(Richard A. Bloom)
But finding a consensus pick has proven difficult. Anuzis, Duncan, Barbour, Priebus, DeWine, Connecticut party chairman Chris Healy and former South Carolina party chairman Katon Dawson are among those who have been discussed. Others said to be considering a bid include Ann Wagner, a former ambassador to Luxembourg who chaired Sen.-elect Roy Blunt's 2010 campaign in Missouri; former Nevada Gov. Bob List is said to be interested as well.
Now, the group of Republican insiders believes there is enough opposition to Steele to allow a number of candidates to fight it out and take their bids to the RNC's winter meeting, when elections will be held on January 14 and 15.
Steele's team has been canvassing voters in hopes of finding support. Observers say Steele must announce his re-election effort alongside public commitments from dozens of members, perhaps as many as 60. If he is unable to win an outright majority on the first ballot, he will likely begin to bleed support; some members who have privately committed to Steele are already telling other potential candidates they will switch their votes on a second ballot.
"It looks to me that he does not have the votes and is waiting to see what develops," RNC treasurer Randy Pullen wrote in an email, obtained by The Hotline, to fellow RNC members on Wednesday. Pullen called for candidate forums in advance of this year's elections, a call likely to be echoed by the most conservative members on the committee.
Steele can count on votes from the outlying territories, which account for nearly 10 percent of the committee's total voters. Delegates representing Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands are thrilled with the support Steele has shown them, whether through personal visits or through contributions to local Republican parties. Each island territory gets three votes on the RNC, the same number as any state, and those members have told others seeking votes they will stick with Steele.
But the rest of Steele's support appears to be slipping. Members of Steele's inner circle have directly asked the chairman not to seek another term, as recently as the Sunday following the election.
Several candidates who intend to run for chairman say they are likely to make their campaigns public next week, when the Republican Governors Association meets in San Diego. The post-election RGA meeting has been a traditional campaign kickoff point before; Anuzis declared his candidacy at the gathering just after the 2008 elections.
Updated 2:40 p.m.
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