This morning, Michael Steele was not expected to seek another term as chairman of the RNC. Late this afternoon, RNC members are now saying they have been informed that he will indeed seek another term. The official decision is expected in a conference call this evening.
(Feels a bit like the LeBron James hype, no?)
Steele didn’t show up for a recent debate for aspiring RNC chairs. Now that we know Steele wants another term, that decision seems odd; 20 RNC members were in attendance, and they heard Mike Duncan, Ann Wagner, Gentry Collins, and Saul Anuzis spend an hour and a half discussing the RNC’s underperformance for the past two years. The committee’s debt is $15 million, an embarrassment for a party that wants to establish its image as a force for fiscal responsibility. Wouldn’t Steele want the chance to offer a counterargument? Or do he and his allies consider the 20 or so RNC members affiliated with the Conservative Steering Committee to be a lost cause?
I suspect that if the RNC chairman were a popularly elected position, Steele would lose handily. He will have a great challenge in this bid for another term, but he did already get 91 members to vote for him. What’s more, RNC committee members obviously care a great deal about how a chair will treat their state party. It’s easy to imagine RNC committee members deciding, “Sure, there were some management and financial problems with Steele, but he’ll be more generous to my state party than Rival X, and so I’ll back him.”
UPDATE: One of Steele’s rivals, Ann Wagner, wants all spending to cease for the time being:
Ann Wagner, candidate for RNC Chair, today issued the following statement:
“I welcome Michael Steele to the race. But this is not about Michael Steele — it is about a fully funded, fully functional RNC and winning in 2012.
“I am urging the committee to immediately freeze any new spending, new contracts, new appointments and new hiring until a new chair is elected. If elected, my first actions will include an ambitious fundraising plan to retire the RNC’s massive debt and a full audit of the RNC’s financial operations and contracts.
“It is time to turn the page. We need a new direction and new leadership at the Republican National Committee. I believe my experience offers the full package of fundraising success, management skills, grassroots organizing, communications and a proven record of winning elections.”