9:30 a.m.: The RNC Chair vote goes first today, and the general consensus is that the first vote will have 50-70 votes for Duncan and then 20some to 30some votes for everyone else. While some are predicting that it’s anybody’s game after that, the distance between 50-70 and the 85 needed to win is much shorter than the distance between 20some-30some and 85. Also, if Duncan appears to be close to victory, there will be a strong temptation among members to be the vote that puts Duncan over the top–and to have the returning chairman owing a favor.
10:15 a.m.: Overheard on press row behind me, while I’m trying, futilely, to get a wireless signal: “To pick Michael Steele after Obama’s victory just screams tokenism.” Ah. So the GOP is wrong and condescending if they pick an African-American party chair, but they’re wrong and racist if they pick a white party chair.
10:42 a.m.: The meeting begins, and a declaration of “no politicking when the conference is not at rest” is announced.
In keeping with the rhetoric on card check, the election will be held with a secret ballot. On the motion for the secret ballot, there is one “nay.” Each candidate is allotted five minutes for a nominating speech by an RNC member and five minutes for a seconding speech by another member.
Ken Blackwell is compared to Kurt Warner in his seconding speech. We’re informed that Chip Saltsman has backed Blackwell.
10:53 a.m.: Joyce Lions-Terhes from Maryland gives the nominating speech for Steele. “Michael Steele raises money. Michael Steele wins elections. Michael Steele is the leader we need.” The seconding speech mentions his willingness to “tackle” Bob Beckel and James Carville on Chris Wallace’s show on Fox. Lots of football metaphors today.
The new Iowa state chairman, a backer of Mike Duncan, says that Republicans in his state are ready to fight–“ready to fight for conservative principles, ready to fight for the economic freedom to succeed, and ready to fight for the economic freedom to fail.” An honest message, but one that people may not want to hear–they may prefer the happy talk that no one will ever fail. The seconding speech promises that Duncan will deliver “a full-scale effort to reengage all conservatives, not just Republicans.”
Glenn McCall of South Carolina, to nominate Katon Dawson, offers an enthusiastic speech, arguing that electing Republicans in South Carolina is not as easy as outsiders think. [McCall is African-American and mentions a bit of his life story–“I never knew my father, but I know my Heavenly Father, so I’m all right,” perhaps one subtle defense against the country-club story. As a speaker with boundless energy, I’m wondering if McCall might be a party figure to keep an eye on.] From the seconding speech–“As a proud Illinoisan–even more proud after yesterday–I proudly second the nomination of Katon Dawson.“
Keith Butler, national committeeman from Michigan, describes his state’s party chair, Saul Anuzis, as “a consistent, outspoken and courageous Republican and the ultimate techno man.” He touts his willingness to take the party’s message “into the barrios and into the ghettos.” He has the best closing line–“You’re looking for one man–that’s Saul, folks.”
Voting is by paper; the box is shown to the crowd before voting begins to verify that it is empty. With each successive round of voting, a different-colored ballot is used to prevent any leftover votes from the previous round slipping into the mix.
Anuzis supporters are distributing “box scores,” showing five ballots. At the bottom of the sheet are the keys “CNTL” “ALT” “DEL”–in keeping with the slogan on his supporters’ t-shirts, “Reboot the RNC.” Well, they did tell us he is the ultimate techno man.
No cell phones or Blackberries can be used in the counting area. Of course, they probably couldn’t get a signal anyway.