Inside the RNC: The Race for Chairman Begins by Gregory Hilton

Former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R-MO) was narrowly defeated in the 2008 GOP gubernatorial primary. She deferred to Sen-elect Roy Blunt this year, but is now exploring a 2012 campaign.

The Next RNC Chairman
Members of the Republican National Committee face a difficult decision in January when Chairman Michael Steele’s term expires. Former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis was defeated by Steele last time, but is now the first candidate to challenge his renomination. He is expected to have the support of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and his letter to RNC members was posted today:

If you believe that what we have seen at the RNC the past two years is good enough to provide us a victory in 2012 then by all means you should stick with our current leadership and direction. If you agree with me that victory in 2012 requires a new set of priorities and new leadership I hope you will consider supporting my candidacy.

Anuzis is referring to the terrible blunder Steele made this year regarding Afghanistan, and the party’s lackluster get out of the vote program was an even worse mistake. The Chairman partially redeemed himself with the success of his Fire Pelosi Bus Tour which brought him to every state.
My suggestion to the RNC is to elevate Steele to “National Chairman of the Republican Party.” Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie should be offered the post of Finance Chairman, and outgoing South Carolina Chairman Karen Floyd should be asked to be Executive Director. Unfortunately they will all decline because those posts would be considered a step down.
Sen. Norm Coleman and Liz Cheney
Anuzis would be a great Finance Chairman, and this is an area where the party performed poorly this cycle. My two favorite state chairmen in 2008 were Anuzis and Sue Lowden (NV), who both did great work in stopping the isolationism and conspiracy theories advocated by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Unfortunately, Lowden saw bitter recriminations from libertarians in her Senate race this year. She was well ahead of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in the polls but still lost the GOP primary.
Many RNC members want a national party chair who is never seen or heard. They believe public relations should be left up to the Congressional leadership. This happened in the 1960s when Ray Bliss ran the party and its public face was House Minority Leader Gerald Ford (MI) and Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (IL).
In the information age it is difficult to go back to that formula, and there is wisdom in picking an RNC Chairman who has a visible role with the news media. The RNC needs someone who is super intelligent, sharp and articulate. They need a spokesman who is comfortable debating DNC and Democratic Congressional leaders. This would not be the best use of Anuzis’ skills.
My suggestions for RNC Chairman are former Sen. Norm Coleman (MN) and attorney Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former Vice President. In fact, they would be great Co-Chairmen. Cheney is a solid conservative while Coleman is regarded as a moderate conservative. If Coleman was selected he would need to be matched with a social conservative such as Kim Lehman, Iowa’s National Committeewoman.
Ambassador Ann Wagner
The party would then need a powerful Executive Director, and the post could be renamed Executive Chairman. My strong recommendation is Ambassador Ann Wagner, who was Chairman of Roy Blunt’s Senate campaign in Missouri. She was RNC Co-Chair for two terms and was also Chairman of the Missouri GOP for six years.
The problem is that she wants to be a Senate candidate in 2012. The reason she served as Ambassador for four years was to give her further credentials for public office, and Wagner now believes she has paid her dues. Her sentiments are understandable, and if she declines, I would then recommend asking new media and grassroots expert David All.
Missouri Senate Race
If Ann Wagner does seek the Republican nomination to oppose Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), it will be a crowded field. Lucky for the GOP, all of the present alternatives are excellent. Missouri is traditionally a battleground state. This year the GOP not only won, but they surprised the experts by running up huge margins in areas carried by Obama two years ago.
The present frontrunner is former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) who was defeated by McCaskill in one of the closest races in the nation in 2006. Talent is now a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and is closely identified with former Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R-MO) presidential campaign. In some respects this is a drawback because many Republicans believe if Talent won the 2012 race he would resign from the Senate to join the Romney administration.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman are also strong potential candidates. Kinder’s real target appears to be Gov. Jay Nixon (D). Steelman deferred to Sen.-elect Roy Blunt this year, but that will not happen again in 2012.
Steelman, 52, is a former State Senator and her husband is the former Republican Leader in the Missouri House. Her father-in-law is a past chairman of the state GOP. Any of them would be first class contenders against the liberal incumbent.

Kim Lehman, the Republican National Committeewoman for Iowa, is popular with social conservatives.

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