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With Tide Turned, New Goals for RNC Election

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele speaks during the RNC Chairmanship Debate at the National Press Club this month.

Correction Appended

When the Republican National Committee met in Washington, D.C., two years ago, the party was coming off two brutal election cycles and looking for a road map out of the political wilderness. After a highly successful midterm cycle, the circumstances have changed heading into 2012.

As the RNC meets in the Washington area again this week, its goal is to begin preparations for a well-funded and organized presidential election cycle. That groundwork starts in earnest Friday with the selection of a chairman to lead the party through the presidential nomination.

When the 168-member RNC picked Michael Steele as chairman in 2009, many in the party were in a state of puzzled contemplation over a second straight cycle of losses and seeking an image makeover. On top of a chairman’s usual duties, some were looking for a new face of the franchise.

Speaking at the 2009 winter meeting, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that in the wake of the 2006 and 2008 elections, “My concern is that unless we do something to adapt, our status as a minority party may become too pronounced for an easy recovery.”

Now that they’ve notched major electoral gains, members are more interested in a behind-the-scenes player who can shore up the RNC’s finances as they prepare for a 2012 showdown.

“We don’t need a spokesman this time,” Utah Republican Party Chairman Dave Hansen told Roll Call. “We need someone who is going to go in and raise money and organize the committee.”

Texas Committeeman Bill Crocker agreed and ranked the importance of the next chairman’s duties in order: make the organization work efficiently, raise money and control the message.

The feeling within GOP circles is that person will not be the current chairman, who shocked some within the committee by running for another term. Steele was often criticized over the past two years for financial mismanagement and disorganization.

His chances at re-election took another hit two weeks after the election, when RNC Political Director Gentry Collins announced his resignation in a scathing letter released to the press.

Steele was also criticized for the amount of time he spent on TV, and the candidates running for his job — Reince Priebus, Maria Cino, Ann Wagner and Saul Anuzis — have indicated that will not be their focus. With several potential presidential candidates and Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) likely to be in the spotlight this year, the party will have plenty of faces to promote.

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