Bye bye Michael Steele?
Advance reports indicate Michael Steele — the gift that kept on giving to media types who could get a great political unwise quote that could turn into a controversy, the gift that kept on giving to talk show hosts who depend on anger, derision and controversy, the gift that kept on giving to blogs that comment on hot political stories whipping around the Internet and the airwaves — is about to leave the RNC buidling. Alas, reports suggest there will reportedly be no Michael Steele’s Last Stand where he presents NC bigwig again, forcing GOPers who feel he was a self-promoting disaster as RNC chief to find a way to edge him out discreetly or indiscreetly.
Reports say he will announce that he’s not going go run (can a radio or talk show gig or a contract to be a cable news paid political analyist be far behind?). On the other hand, another report says he will run. (Choose the one that fits your political preference)
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is expected to announce he will drop out of the highly contested race to keep his post, multiple RNC sources told FoxNews.com on Sunday.
Fox News has confirmed Steele sent an e-mail to committee members Saturday night with the subject line, “conference call.”
In the note, he asked members to join him “for a private conference call” Monday evening.
Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House, narrowed the gap in the Senate and picked up 19 state legislative bodies in the November midtem election, but pressure has been mounting all year for Steele to step down from the position.
Critics have described the chairman as gaffe-prone and said he hasn’t raised enough money. The criticism has resulted in an array of challenges for Steele’s job from Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, former RNC Co-Chairwoman Ann Wagner, longtime Republican official Maria Cino, former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis and former RNC Political Director Gentry Collins.
Another big Republican name is reportedly going to throw his hat into the ring:
Norm Coleman — former U.S. senator from Minnesota, and now chairman of American Action Network and Forum, a key outside GOP group – is likely to enter the race for Republican National Committee chairman now that Michael Steele is expected to announce he will not seek reelection.
“Norm is leaning towards running, based on his ability to raise money and act as a national surrogate,” a close source said.
Friends say Coleman’s big push would be his ability to help the RNC retire its daunting debt: “I was the best fundraiser of all the Senate candidates.”
However, committee insiders say Coleman was hurt by the leaked news that he had promised Steele he wouldn’t run against him, since many in the GOP are agitating for change, not clubbiness.
Steele has announced a conference call with RNC members at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Friends say that he has not revealed his decision, but has sent them the clear signal that he’s dropping out. That’s based in part on the erosion, in the past week, of votes he had been counting on.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza’s sources come up with a different conclusion than Fox News’ and The Politico’s:
Steele alerted RNC members of the conference call on Saturday night. If Steele is, in fact, running for a second term, a conference call would be an odd way of going about it.
Sources close to the situation say Steele has done little to get a new campaign off the ground. But, one Republican insider who has spoken directly to Steele in recent days says the chairman is planning to run again.
Steele has grown increasingly isolated from his political advisers over the past few months, a fact that makes it difficult to divine his intentions about a second term as chairman.
If you have to place money on what will happen, place your bet on Steele NOT running. He knows how to count votes and its clear that heading into a Presidential election cycle the last thing many Republicans want is for him to be at the RNC, not just due to its financial problems but he was perceived as promoting Michael Steele as a personality more than promoting the Republican party. And, from all reports, the party’s biggest players want to see a change in the RNC’s finances and the way the RNC chair is perceived ASAP.
The big story will be if he decides to stay — not if he moves on to a new role as a well paid talking head (place your bets in Vegas on that happening NOW).
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.