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Anuzis’ comment on his website about working “behind the scenes” is a reference to RNC members’ unhappiness with Steele’s very visible role at the committee and their interest in finding a new chairman who will emphasize party-building and fundraising, not media appearances.
Former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner, who served as co-chairwoman of the RNC from 2001 to 2005, jumped into the race this week. President George W. Bush appointed her ambassador to Luxembourg in 2005.
In a video announcing her candidacy and listing her credentials, Wagner emphasized that “fundraising must come first” and that “we also must have greater transparency and accountability when it comes to the RNC’s budget and expenditures” — two obvious shots across Steele’s bow.
Other names receive mention, including Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy, but the most formidable potential candidate may well be Reince Priebus, the chairman of Wisconsin’s Republican Party.
An attorney who is general counsel for the RNC, Priebus was a supporter of Steele. But the Wisconsin Republican has picked up considerable support from influential members of the committee who are fed up with Steele, and he is now widely regarded as the favorite in the race if he decides to run.
Even with all the buzz about the contest, some think that the focus on the Republican chairmanship exaggerates its importance. After all, they note, with control of the House and so many new governors, the party doesn’t need a national spokesman.
Even more important, by the spring of 2012, the party is likely to have an apparent presidential nominee, who at that point will essentially take over the RNC and use it as an appendage of the presidential campaign.
But others think that the party’s success less than 24 months from now depends on a strong party structure.
“Republicans are so pumped about their opportunity now that they have forgotten that you need a good foundation [entering a presidential race cycle]. Right now, they don’t have it at the RNC,” Grotta said.
Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.