The first-ballot total is Duncan 52, Steele 46, Dawson 28, Anuzis 22, Blackwell 20.
When Duncan’s vote total was announced, there were audible “oohs” from the room, and not because everyone was overwhelmed with the number. I had put him at between 50 and 70, and so the perception is that he underperformed. I had expected the rest to be bunched together, and so Michael Steele’s supporters have to be gleeful–they came close to the leader and have established their man as the most viable non-incumbent candidate.
Shortly before the vote was announced, I spoke with a backer of one of Duncan’s rivals, who pointed back to Jim Nicholson’s unexpected win in 1997. That year Nicholson finished a distant third on the first ballot, then went on to win on the fifth ballot. This race-watcher says that anything can happen, but subscribes to the theory that if Duncan doesn’t win quickly, his support will disintegrate quickly. This person suggested Duncan could be gone by the third ballot.
No one is obligated to drop out for the next ballot; voting continues until someone gets 85. Obviously, a lot can change, but right now the chances for Michael Steele seem to have improved dramatically.