One man leading the effort is a Mississippi Republican Party committeeman, Henry Barbour, who is a nephew of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi — a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, himself. Governor Barbour is said by people involved in the discussions to be among those eager to see a change at the top the party and recently criticized party fund-raising under Mr. Steele.
Officials close to the presumed new House speaker, Representative John A. Boehner, and the Senate minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that both men would prefer a new chairman, as well, but that they were also resigned to Mr. Steele’s continued leadership should no clear alternative emerge to defeat him.
Several officials — including some directly involved in the discussions — said Henry Barbour and allies of his had approached several potential candidates, including a member of Mr. Steele’s “kitchen cabinet” of advisers, Reince Priebus, who is chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin and who helped manage Mr. Steele’s first election for the chairmanship two years ago.
These officials, all of whom requested anonymity to share details of the talks, said Mr. Priebus had recently warned Mr. Steele that a run for re-election could prove difficult this time around, and advised him to consider leaving the chairmanship at time when he could point to big Republican gains nationwide.
But Mr. Priebus has made it clear that he was personally uncomfortable with the idea of challenging Mr. Steele directly for the post, given their friendship.