- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2008

Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan has officially announced his bid for a second term and is willing to consider naming a general chairman to serve as the “face of the party,” he told The Washington Times on Wednesday.

Since the Bush White House backed his first election as chairman in January 2007, Mr. Duncan´s lack of dazzle as a public speaker and national spokesman has left him largely invisible as the face of the party. It is widely considered his only significant failing during his two-year term as national chairman.

“I would consider having a general chairman if the members are for it,” Mr. Duncan, 51, told The Times in a phone interview. He said he “can be an accelerator of change” for the party and will have a 10-point plan that includes establishing a think tank to be called the Center for Republican Renewal.

He said he also would create a “surrogates bureau” to ensure several high-profile Republicans are dispatched to deliver the party´s message and make appearances, at which his Democratic counterpart, Howard Dean, excels.

Longtime voting members of the RNC consider Mr. Duncan the top candidate for what is widely seen as the No. 1 Republican post when, as will soon be the case, the party doesn’t occupy the White House.

“He has put a lot of members on various committees and he has taken care of a lot of people and at this juncture has more votes than anyone else,” said Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere.

“But this is not going to last very long I have a feeling,” said Mr. Villere, who is backing former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell for national chairman.

Although at least four other Republicans are officially elbowing one another for the chairmanship, Mr. Duncan has been unofficially waging his candidacy for many months. He raised record sums of donations for candidates and the state parties supporting him for the Nov. 4 elections — and for the runoffs afterward.

Of the contenders for the post, RNC members say former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele is considered the smoothest talker and that Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis and South Carolina Chairman Katon Dawson have the fundraising and organizing skills to get the job done.

Mr. Blackwell, in Republican politics even before he was Jack Kemp’s deputy at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has more TV and campaign than either Mr. Anuzis or Mr. Dawson.

But Mr. Duncan, a banker who has been RNC general counsel and treasurer, has the most envied of powers: that of incumbency.

“I think it’s a Duncan-Steele contest at this point,” said Randy Ruedrich, Alaska Republican Party chairman.

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