Does Steele's 'Friend' Have a Shot at Replacing Him for RNC Chair?

The embattled chairman's first major challenger speaks out

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis is gunning for Michael Steele's job. In a delicately-worded blog post, Anuzis announced his bid to replace Steele, his "friend and colleague," as chairman of the Republican National Committee. "The overriding challenge we face is winning back the Presidency in 2012 and we will not accomplish that objective unless there is dramatic change in the way the RNC does business," Anuzis wrote. "We can't rely on our wins in 2010 to carry us to success in 2012. We also can't win in 2012 unless the RNC re-establishes itself as the powerful force that put us over the top in 2000 and 2004."

Anuzis's announcement makes him the first major challenger for Steele's job. Does he have a chance at unseating the embattled chairman?

  • He Takes Jabs at Steele, writes Reid Wilson at Hotline on Call:
Anuzis's pitch is heavily laden with references to some of Steele's more controversial moves. "My agenda is very straightforward. I have no interest in running for office. I won't be writing a book. It is not my goal to be famous," Anuzis wrote, referring to a book Steele wrote that angered RNC members. Anuzis also pledged a "detailed review and supervision of how we allocate our resources," a reference to Steele's often strained relations with the party's biggest donors.
Steele had tapped Anuzis as a member of his transition team after becoming the RNC's leader, and the Michigan Republican suggested it was a difficult decision to try and unseat Steele.
  • Republicans Could Coalesce Behind Anuzis, reports Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post:
There is significant concern among the anti-Steele forces that a crowded field could splinter the vote in enough pieces to allow him to be reelected.

"There is a concerted effort to coalesce behind the strongest contender if Steele stays in the race," said one committee member in the anti-Steele camp. "There is a fear that too many candidates plays to Steele's advantage."
  • Steele's Defense Mark Preston at CNN predicts how Steele will respond:
Steele has defended himself from this criticism in the past and points to the successful run Republicans have had during his tenure as chairman, including wining the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat, taking back the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia and the huge Republican gains made in the midterm elections.
  • Steele May Bring Up His Race, writes Jonathan Strong at The Dailer Caller. He cites a recent radio interview between Steel and Rev. Al Sharpton:

Steele ratcheted up the rhetoric, appearing to agree with Sharpton that if he is not reelected as RNC chairman, it will be because the GOP is racist, making “the brother take the fall.”

Sharpton said he couldn’t believe Republicans would even think of ditching Steele as RNC chair.

“You’d be the first brother run out after doing a good job. It would be interesting to see them have a historic win, and the brother takes the fall. Usually the brother takes the fall when they lose,” Sharpton said.

“You’re right. Well, you know, that’s going to be remain to be seen,” Steele said. “I get it. There are folks who are not exactly thrilled with my style of leadership."

Steele, who has yet to formally announce whether he intends to run again, is widely assumed to have between 50 and 60 solid votes for a second term. He would need 85, a simply majority of the 168 voting members of the committee.

Steele will survive because there won't be enough solid support behind any single challenger to dethrone him, and he can say "Hey, since I became chair we took back the House.  What did you do for us?"

Besides, the real heavyweights (such as they are in the GOP) are running for Obama's job in 2012, not Steele's.  It's possible one of the contenders could drop out early and go gunning for Steele instead, but that's not a good move on the chessboard:  if you make a difference in 2012 there will be a Republican President who outranks you as party boss, and if you blow it, you're the next pinata.
  • Others Are Expected to Enter the Race, notes ABC's The Note:

Anuzis may be the first challenger to emerge, but he’s unlikely to be the last. Movers and shakers within the GOP have been floating a variety of other names as potential challengers to Steele, including Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Preibus, former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, former North Dakota GOP chairman Gary Emineth, and former Bush administration official and 2008 Republican National Convention organizer Maria Cino, among others.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.