Good Monday morning and welcome to 2011. We hope everyone got some time off over the holidays and had a Happy New Year.
On the radar for Monday: RNC Chair contenders square off as one candidate drops out of the race; Tim Kaine says he's staying at the DNC; Jon Huntsman for president?; It's Carol Moseley Braun v. Rahm Emanuel in Chicago; and Yale students love...Mitch Daniels.
In The Red Corner... The event of the day will be the Republican National Committee Chair contenders squaring off in a debate at the National Press Club. The forum -- sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller -- will be a chance to see how the contenders are positioning themselves for the Jan. 14 election. One thing to watch for is whether the contenders gang up on current Chair Michael Steele or Wisconsin GOP Chair Reince Priebus, who is the early frontrunner in the race.
Collins Drops Out: The debate comes as Gentry Collins, the former RNC political director, ended his bid for RNC chair Sunday night -- adding another wrinkle to the race. Collins, you'll recall, did major damage to current Steele when he released a letter that said that because of the RNC's fundraising problems under Steele, Republicans were unable to win seats they could have in 2010.
Collins only had three public backers, according to The Hotline's Whip Count, so it is unlikely that his dropping out will have a large effect on the race. With Collins out of the race, there are five contenders left, including Steele. http://bit.ly/fx5Tdi
The Hotine Whip Count: http://bit.ly/fOJg7R
Collins letter: http://bit.ly/aJK42E
Heye Hangs 'Em Up: And in other RNC news, Communications Director Doug Heye is leaving the committee. Heye's career has been closely tied to Steele's, dating back to Steele's 2006 Maryland Senate campaign. http://bit.ly/hDMX8w
Kaine Staying Put: Meanwhile at the Democratic National Committee, Chair Tim Kaine said Sunday that he plans on staying in his position for the next two years. "My agreement with the president is I was going to do what he wants me to do," Kaine said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And what I know sitting here today is he wants me to continue in this spot, and that's what I'm going to do with excitement."
That pretty much shuts the door on a potential Senate run if Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) opts against running again. http://bit.ly/hBfuX4
A Huntsman Storm: President Obama's ambassador to China and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) sucked all off the air out of the room over the weekend with a Newsweek story in which he doesn't rule out a run for president in 2012. Huntsman told the magazine that he thinks "we may have one final run left in our bones."
It's hard to see how Huntsman could gain much traction. He's Obama's point person in China, hardly an ideal profile in a Republican primary where many voters view the country as an emerging threat. And his record of supporting environmental regulations and backing more lenient immigration policies is a non-starter among core Republican voters. At best, he'd split votes from Mitt Romney among the business and Mormon communities - hardly a winning formula for a GOP primary. http://bit.ly/fUPHsQ
It's Emanuel v. Braun: The Chicago mayor's race has come down to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. Braun is the most prominent African American left in the race, as the other black contenders -- Rep. Danny Davis (D) and state Sen. James Meeks ended their candidacies around the end of the year. http://apne.ws/fSTXdR
Cox To RGA: The Republican Governors Association has a new executive director starting today -- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's (R) former campaign manager Phil Cox. Cox was highly regarded after McDonnell's big 2009 win in Virginia and went on to work for the RGA during the 2010 cycle, focusing on Pennsylvania and Florida.
Cox will lead the RGA's efforts in three gubernatorial contests in 2011 -- Louisiana, Kentucky and Mississippi. He replaces outgoing RGA Executive Director Nick Ayers, who is considered a top staffing get for a 2012 presidential contender. No word yet on where he is heading.
Fun reading: McDonnell's campaign strategy in Cox's words: http://bit.ly/h1L9Ya
Yale Loves...Daniels? A group of Yale students has launched an effort to draft Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) into the 2012 presidential race. The reason? The rising national debt. "Mitch Daniels is the candidate students need in 2012," the group's website says. "His measured tone and serious policy solutions offer us the best hope for a responsible and intelligent national conversation in 2012, especially on the most pressing question for our rising generation: the national debt."