One of the best-known conservative voices on the Republican National Committee will support Reince Priebus in the race for national party chairman next month, according to an email sent to committee members today.
Priebus, the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, has won backing from Indiana national committee member Jim Bopp, a prominent Republican attorney and the founder of a group of conservative members of the RNC.
Bopp's group, the Republican National Conservative Caucus, was formed just before the 2009 RNC election. Many saw it as a way to coalesce behind a candidate other than Michael Steele, who went on to win the chairmanship.
Priebus "has successfully employed in Wisconsin and intends to implement in the RNC a leadership team approach, which I believe is vital for any Chairman's success. This means bring together a top notched group of RNC members and professionals ... to guide the RNC's activities," Bopp wrote in an email to fellow RNC members.
Bopp's endorsement means 18 of the 168 members of the RNC publicly back Priebus, far more than support any other candidate for the chairmanship. And Bopp's endorsement will help Priebus convince wavering conservatives that he is the right candidate for the job.
But getting conservatives to coalesce behind Priebus will be difficult, especially given that other conservative luminaries on the committee have already lined up behind other contenders. Virginia national committee member Morton Blackwell, who runs a training institute for young conservative activists, is backing former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis. Minnesota national committee member Evie Axdahl, a founding member of the conservative caucus, is backing former Bush administration official Maria Cino. Several prominent conservatives have already lined up behind former RNC co-chairman Ann Wagner as well.
Bopp has spent the last two years feuding with Steele, who canceled a large legal contract with Bopp's Terre Haute, Indiana-based firm. The latest feud erupted when Bopp complained Steele had played the race card in announcing his re-election bid. On a conference call with committee members, Steele said his bid would test the GOP's "willingness to be the party of Lincoln."