- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2008

GOP governors and state party chairmen say former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be a leading Republican spokesman but not as its national chairman, a post likely to be filled by someone from within the ranks of the 168-member Republican National Committee.

Mr. Gingrich, considered a one-man idea factory who had wanted to be drafted for the top party post, would not give up his leadership of two other organizations he already heads, and that pretty much took him out of the running, interviews with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, his fellow GOP governors and several influential state GOP chairmen indicated.

Last week, GOP governors at their annual meeting in Miami, Fla., and 22 Republican state party chairmen and national committeemen who assembled at Myrtle Beach, S.C., said the next chairman will have to be a dynamic fundraiser and authoratatvie voice and face of the party.

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, chairman of a Republican candidate training organization called GOPAC, has declared his candidacy for the post. He is a former Maryland GOP chairman but is not now a member of the RNC.

Among RNC members, the top contenders for election as national chairman in January are:

• Robert M. “Mike” Duncan, 57, the current RNC chairman who has raised record sums of money for the RNC and the failed McCain presidential campaign and is a Tennessee RNC member and banker by trade.

Though popular with members who regard him as well spoken, he was largely invisible to Republicans beyond the national committee since his election - at President Bush’s behest - as the 60th RNC chairman in January of last year.

• Katon Dawson, 52, the South Carolina GOP chairman and an auto-parts distributor with his own airplane. He acknowledges, in his South Carolinian accent, that he does have the money and time to campaign for the top national party spot.

Mr. Dawson hosted the Myrtle Beach meeting and had invited all of the 167 other members. Interviews afterward of several of those who attended confirmed Mr. Dawson’s conclusion that so far no consensus has emerged on the next national chairman. In other words, the GOP remains leaderless.

• Saul Anuzis, 49, the hyperactive Michigan GOP chairman who founded and owns QuickConnect USA, a provider of voice over Internet protocol service. He says that he, like President-elect Barack Obama and the Obama campaign team, is versed in the fundraising, message-delivering and volunteer-recruiting uses of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like.

He admits to having less personal wealth than Mr. Dawson and cannot finance his chairmanship campaign on his own. “I am raising the money from private donors,” Mr. Anuzis said. He said he will be a full-time chairman if elected. “I would do what I have done since becoming Michigan chairman - I am on a leave of absence and my partner runs the firm.”

• Tina Benkiser, 46, the clear-speaking, slightly Texas-accented chairman of the Texas GOP since 2003. She is a Houston attorney, long-time party activist and a social conservative who could command a bloc of perhaps 30 other social conservatives on the RNC - enough to get through a first ballot. She told The Washington Times before leaving for a vacation with her husband that she is contemplating a run for national chairman.

She did not attend Mr. Dawson’s gathering. She would be the first woman to lead the national GOP since Mary Louis Smith of Iowa, who was elected for two terms beginning in 1974.

• Jim Greer, 46, the peppy, feisty Florida GOP chairman and associate of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a potential 2012 GOP presidential-nomination contender.

• Chuck Yob, 71, an RNC member from Michigan who is retiring from the committee. He may run for national chairman, he told The Times on Monday. But, he said, he has not teamed up with former Sen. Fred Thompson, of Tennessee, who many RNC members thought would be “general chairman” and chief spokesman for a national committee headed by Mr. Yob.

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