The Inscrutable RNC Race
While the people in the room at Monday’s Republican National Committee chairman debate were bearish on Michael Steele—a judgment I’ve heard from a lot of race-watchers—Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post sees Steele near the front of the pack, right behind incumbent Mike Duncan.
Steele is running as the insider’s candidate (he is being counseled by several former RNC senior officials including Curt Anderson and Blaise Hazelwood) but with an outsider message: new faces are needed to shake up a stolid party. Steele performed the best of the candidates at Monday’s debate (it was a low bar) and is clearly the best communicator in the group. But, he must find a way to convince RNC members that he is sufficiently conservative in order to build on whatever support he takes on the first ballot.
Jim Geraghty, watching the race at National Review, is unconvinced, and he polls three other race-watchers who think Steele is either in the “second tier” or way behind. It’s not just the “sufficiently conservative” concern hurting him. It’s the idea, pushed by no less a Republican broker than Karl Rove, that Steele is a bad manager. Steele told me Monday that he brushed that off as a token of Rove’s friendship with Mike Duncan, and it’s worth asking how much the party members still respect the “genius” who lost them Congress in 2006.