Michael Steele RNC Re-Election Likely?

The sitting RNC chairman is losing to a field of no-name candidates. Is he actually the favorite?

Michael Steele is substantially behind some guy I’d never heard of until last week, and who seems to be known mostly for having a really funny name.  Nonetheless, a report for The Hill argues, he’s the odds-on favorite for a second term as RNC chair.

Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus remains the front-runner for the Republican National Committee chairmanship, which some observers predicted could spell trouble for his bid.

Priebus leads the field with 36 RNC members publicly backing him, according to a count by National Review Online.

Current RNC Chairman Michael Steele is a close second with 27 members backing him.

Priebus’ front-runner status could prove a liability, according to Mike Duncan. The former RNC chairman, who was Steele’s predecessor serving from 2007-2009, said the leader typically “loses momentum after the first or second ballot,” he said recently.

Now, Duncan’s expertise on the internal machinations of RNC politics dwarfs my own.  But from where I’m sitting, when you have a sitting chairman who 1) presided over an election cycle in which his party staged a major resurgence and yet 2) is almost universally thought to be an embarrassment and a buffoon, every candidate in the race is either the sitting chairman or Not The Sitting Chairman.

Steele has 27 votes, according to the NRO tally.

Priebus has 38 (he’s up 2 since the Hill report).

Two other candidates have 14 each, another has 12, and Undeclared leads the pack with 63.

So, by my count, that’s 27 votes for Michael Steele and 141 for Not Michael Steele.    So, Steele will need to hold onto his current delegates and pick off another 58 to win.    But he’s the sitting chairman.  Who just presided over a shellacking of the opposition party.  And they’re not with him now.   What is it that he could possibly do to persuade them that he’s actually a good chairman?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Andyman says:

    I think you’re underestimating the degree to which the RNC (and the GOP as a whole, really, until maybe recently) is a consensus-oriented machine. It’s just part of their corporate culture to prefer a united front, smooth transitions, etc. in a way that the Democrats either don’t get or have given up on trying for.

    In that light, once you have a perceptible front-runner, there’s a lot of pressure on voters to either coalesce behind him or not. So it’s not so much Sitting Chairman vs. Not as it is Apparent Leader vs. Not. And it’s bad news for Priebus, undergoing his trial balloon phase now, that he seems to be topping out short of a majority.

    I would expect the anti-Steele people to start floating a lot of stories about someone else gathering momentum. We’ll see if Plan B can get it done.