I love the little news scrolls coming across my desk today, as the Republican National Committee seeks to elect a new chairman — the guy who will lead the Republican Party.
The first ballot had Mike Duncan in the lead. Mike Duncan has been the head of the RNC, which mounted massive losses in Congress in the 2006 and 2008 election (not to mention, of course, the loss of the White House in 2008). Duncan was Bush's appointed guy, and a strong supporter of Bush policies. So electing him would signal that the Republican Party is going to stay with the Bush doctrines, foreign and domestic.
Naturally, though, there was competition.
And by the third ballot, Mike Duncan has dropped to second place. He then, in a surprise to many, withdrew his name.
So who became the frontrunners? Michael Steele, noted because he is an African-American. And Katon Dawson of South Carolina, who recently had to abandon his membership in a "whites only" country club.
Where are they now? Given (primarily) those two choices, what is the temperature of the new "rebranded" Republican party?
After the surprise drop out of former Chairman Mike Duncan, South Carolina party chairman Katon Dawson has taken a two-vote lead over Michael Steele, 62-60.
This comes despite Duncan encouraging his voters to go with Steele, a source close to Duncan told First Read.
Anuzis moved to 31, and Blackwell remained at 15, rounding out fourth-round voting.
The winning candidate needs 85 votes to clinch. That means Dawson now needs 23 more votes, and Steele needs 25.
Duncan met with Steele privately prior to dropping out to tell him of his plans, a source said. The source added that "he likes Steele," but he's not sure that the members will all move to Steele. Many of them aren't warm to Steele, because he's not a committee member.
The source also said that Duncan pulled out because he's a "party guy" and didn't want a long, drawn-out fight.
This now is shaping up to be a fight between, fundamentally, an "insider" (Dawson) and an "outsider" (Steele). It also ironically sets up the first African American to lead the Republican Party against a party chairman from the South, who was a member of a country club that was formerly was all-white.
It would be a political embarassment to have the black guy lose; it only solidifies (perhaps unfairly) the perception that the GOP is not exactly minority-friendly. On the other hand, if Steele (who is not only black, but more moderate) wins, what will be the response of the Republican rank-and-file?
Then again, this whole "RNC leader" selection process might just be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
UPDATE – 3:08 pm: Blackwell (another African-American), who was running last in the fourth round of balloting (see above), bows out and throws his support to Steele.
UPDATE - 3:30 pm: Michael Steele has re-gained the lead in the fifth round of voting for RNC chair.
Michael Steele: 79
Katon Dawson: 69
Saul Anuzis: 20
Aaaand… Anuzis dropped out without endorsing anybody.
So the next round should be the last. Which is good because, in his liveblog, NRO's Jim Geraghty notes that in addition to the other weighty questions hanging over this balloting for the chairman of the RNC who will lead the party out of the political wilderness …
the RNC has to be out of the ballroom by 5 p.m. because a wedding is slated to use the room starting at 5:30.
Steele only needs to get 6 of Anuzi's forfeited 20 to win 85 votes and take the throne.
UPDATE – 4:05 pm: It's Steele, with 91 votes.
Steele is the most moderate candidate, and (unlike Dawson) not from the South (NOTE: But he is pro-life). And he's black. Signs of a major shift in the Republican party.
Conservatives are becoming dust in the wind…..
UPDATE: On Twitter, Ana Marie Cox observed, “Strong showing for Steele –widely considered a ‘moderate’ — in #rncchair suggests that Rs at least considering abandoning Palinism,” which she defined as, “[a]ggressive know-nothingism, pride in ignorance.” “It’s a diverse party. We’re tired of being labeled as white supremacists,” said a committee member from Rhode Island.
And it looks like social conservatives will be very unhappy…..