Tonight, Gio Cicione, the chairman of the Rhode Island Republican party and a supporter of Saul Anuzis, sent an e-mail to members outlining Anuzis’s strategy for victory. That strategy, in short, is to be the most acceptable candidate to the most members as the other contenders withdraw.
To bolster his case, Cicione cites the 2009 race as evidence. That year, Cicione reasons, Kate Dawson, Ken Blackwell, and Anuzis battled for the right to oppose Mike Duncan and Michael Steele on the final ballots. Duncan had become an unacceptable candidate to most members, so after the first vote, the contest narrowed to the two main contenders, Steele and Dawson.
This time, Cicione believes Steele’s goose is cooked. “Given the number of his supporters who have publicly indicated that they are prepared to move their support elsewhere in later rounds, he either gets re-elected on the first ballot or he’s out,” Cicione writes. The question, then, is whom Steele’s backers will support once he withdraws.
He’s skeptical they’ll choose Reince Priebus:
“He has gained a number of 1st ballot commitments because he and his supporters have effectively convinced “anti-Steele” members that they need to unite behind Reince in order to defeat Steele. That is no longer the case. The POLITICO article makes it clear that more than half of the RNC has already decided to vote against Steele, and not a single member lists Steele as their second choice.”
As members realize they no longer need to unite behind Priebus to defeat Steele, Cicione argues, they’ll consider their options, and the one they’ll like best is Anuzis. “Those members who recognize that Priebus was an integral part of the Steele administration . . . will chose another candidate” Cicione writes. Furthermore, he adds, “the Anuzis whip counts show that very few Steele supporters are willing to go with Priebus as their second choice.”
Why not Ann Wagner or Maria Cino? Cicione says the RNC’s quota system — according to which the chair and co-chair must be different genders — places them at a disadvantage. The leading candidates for co-chair, Jan Larimer and Sharon Day, are female, and Cino and Wagner lack the personal relationships with members to overcome their attachments to the co-chair contenders.
Why Anuzis? Cicione offers five reasons:
1. His Republican credentials are unassailable;
2. He has largely stayed out of the back and forth relating to Steele’s tenure;
3. He was not an “inside” player in the outgoing administration;
4. He has good personal relationships with members as the longest serving candidate for Chairman; and
5. He gained the respect of the members from a strong finish and a gracious loss in 2009.
“The candidate who can best build momentum by gaining support on 3rd, 4th, and 5th round ballots will ultimately be the winner,” Cicione concludes. On January 14, we’ll see if he’s right.