A behind-the-scenes battle to take the reins of the Republican National Committee is taking off between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.
Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls.
A bevy of backers for each man, neither of whom is an RNC member, say the committee needs a leader who can formulate a counter-agenda to President-elect Barack Obama’s administration and articulate it on the national stage.
“The Republican National Committee has to ask itself if it wants someone who has successfully led a revolution,” Randy Evans, Gingrich confidant and personal attorney based in Atlanta, told The Washington Times on Monday. “If it does, Newt’s the one.”
Former California Republican Party Chairman Shawn Steel told The Times that Mr. Steele, chairman of GOPAC, a national organization once headed by Mr. Gingrich, “wants to be Republican national chairman.”
“I’ve talked to him many times, and he definitely wants it,” said Mr. Steel.
Word of the fight over the RNC post came Monday as Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who is widely credited with developing the “50-state strategy” that helped elect Mr. Obama, is stepping down in January at the end of his term.
Republicans, especially state party leaders, have become envious of the organization and money that Mr. Dean’s operation deployed in two victorious election cycles in which Democrats regained and expanded control of Congress and captured the White House.
Republicans agree that their national party is leaderless and in desperate need of someone who has the force of personality and history of accomplishments to command national attention to take on Mr. Obama. Someone is also needed to unite disparate factions that, even in the best of times, generate internal friction among themselves.
The Republican Governors Association meets in Miami this week, and the fortunes for Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Steele or Mr. Duncan, who is considering a re-election run, may surface at the four-day meeting.