The Inside Politics of the RNC Election

RNC elections are very hard to predict.  They run under special rules of gravity based nearly as much on personal relationships as ideology.  My handicapping — a partially informed guess at best — is as follows.  Reince Priebus, the very able Wisconsin state chair is the clear front-runner.  Michael Steele the incumbent is way behind and nearly certain to lose.  Most of the voters are still not telling outsiders their choice.   But the actual committee members are talking to each other and those of us who have been around politics a long time and know a lot of committee members are hearing a certain buzz from the murky situation.  That said, I think the likely final dynamic of the race will be Priebus versus the winner of a not-Priebus contest among the other candidates: (Maria Cino, Ann Wagner, Michael Steele and Saul Anuzis).  

What to watch?  The first ballot will be a key show of strength for Priebus.  If Reince does well, he may surge on momentum and take it fast.  Many of the RNC members have only made a first ballot commitment.  If they think Priebus is going to surge, many will join the bandwagon to be on the winning side.  These are all local party politicians after all.  If he looks vulnerable, they may try to go somewhere else.   Priebus’ great strength is his outstanding record as Wisconsin GOP chair.  His weakness comes from being a former close Steele ally and as such carries the ironic baggage of being disliked by the Steele forces for what they see as betrayal while also being seen by some of the anti-Steele vote as too close to the old Steele regime.

Saul Anuzis, a well-regarded former Michigan chair and longtime committee hand, has run before and has many friends on the committee.  He is attempting to combine his natural support on the committee with the dozen or so Steele votes that will get free after the first ballot.  My sources say he is doing increasingly well with second and third ballot commitments.  My guess is that Saul will emerge as the leading opponent to Priebus after the first ballot.  The vital question is whether Saul will show enough strength on the second ballot to generate his own momentum.  The old pol’s rule of “be for what is going to happen” will have a big effect on the second and third ballots.

My best guess?  I think there is about a 60% chance that Priebus will take it, followed by a 35% chance for Anuzis and a 10% chance for a Cino upset.  I’m probably being too kind to Maria Cino, but she too is an excellent operative.  Her problem is that she has more support outside the RNC than on it; most on the RNC have a preference for “one of our own,” and both Priebus and Anuzis are seasoned Committee pols.  The good news is that no Steele type disaster is looming.  I think Priebus, Anuzis and Cino would each make an excellent chair; we’ll find out next week which of them has best mastered the art of inside wheeling and dealing in a tricky multiple ballot election.

More posts by Mike Murphy:

Comedy Moment in RNC Battle

Civil War in the GOP? A Peacemaker’s Proposal…

  1. Peter Robinson
    C

    Mike, I thank you.  You’re one of maybe two or three people in the entire country who can make sense of what’s going on at the RNC.  

    On the other hand, you didn’t make a single inflammatory statement here.  Are you feeling okay?

  2. Good Berean

    May the most competent administrator win.

  3. Jimmy Carter

    I enjoyed the analysis.

    “The good news is that no Steele type disaster is looming.”

    Good news indeed.

    Peter Robinson: Mike, I thank you.  You’re one of maybe two or three people in the entire country who can make sense of what’s going on at the RNC.  

    On the other hand, you didn’t make a single inflammatory statement here.  Are you feeling okay? · Jan 10 at 5:24pm

    That cracked Me up to no end.

  4. Franco

    I’m confused… which one is the wacky tea party sympathizer, and which one is the sellout squish?

  5. Mike Murphy
    C

    Well Peter, I’m now part of the new movement for national unity.  Also, sharp readers will note that my prediction percentages add up to 105%.  It’s a typo, but with a secretive RNC election a 5% error rate in predictions is well within the margin of error…

  6. Ken Sweeney

    Mike–I would love to see a commentary on the relevency of the RNC in the current environment.  With Senator DeMint with his own PACs, web fund raising directly to candidates (by-passing parties), does the RNC matter as much today?

    I think on the ground game and organization, the state parties have a more significant impact, and the large number of Republican governors and state houses should help.  What would an effective RNC look like going into this presidential election cycle?

  7. Mike Murphy
    C

    Ken,

    You are right about the growing number of outside actors in the political space; it’ll only grow.  But the RNC still is very important.  Legally it has certain official duties that are vital to the party; central plumbing and wiring stuff, GOTV programs, etc.  It is also a message platform of great importance.  We want a well-funded, technically smart RNC that works on every level of political communication; media, on-line/web, organization, surrogate communication, in-kind services, research and press.  It is vital that it work well with state parties in the key states in a Presidential.  We need a smart, technical, and competent chair to run this complex organization and to frankly, repair the damage that has been done.

  8. Ken Sweeney
    Mike Murphy: Technically smart RNC that works on every level of political communication; media, on-line/web, organization, surrogate communication, in-kind services, research and press.   · Jan 10 at 6:05pm

    Republicans took a ”technological” lead with direct mail in the late 20th century.  It seems plausible that we can catch up to the Democrat party machine’s web savvy.

    And thanks for joining us at Ricochet.  The reality check of tactical politics is refreshing.  Let me know when you need a match for inflammatory comments.

  9. AmishDude
    Mike Murphy: Well Peter, I’m now part of the new movement for national unity.  Also, sharp readers will note that my prediction percentages add up to 105%.  It’s a typo, but with a secretive RNC election a 5% error rate in predictions is well within the margin of error… · Jan 10 at 5:54pm

    In a DNC election, the ballots total 105% at least.

  10. AmishDude

    So, what does Steele do?  I fear he won’t go away quietly.

  11. Mike Murphy
    C

    The idea of the RNC as a bunch of beltway insiders is silly.  Most are local leaders of state GOP organizations and they spend even more time demonizing Beltway types than even the most vocal posters here at Ricochet.  (Whether the bulk of the RNC voting members actually know anything about how to win elections however, is a different matter but we’ll leave that aside.)

    One last point about the vote.  Steele may well surprise a lot of observers on the first ballot.  Much like the “Fredo kiss” in the Godfather, Steele may get some goodbye votes on the first ballot that overstate his strength.  Plus he has a ceiling; once the anti-Steele votes start to unify, he’ll be stuck.  Some RNC insiders think Steele will lead on the first ballot with 58+ votes and then decline fast on second ballot and be gone on the third.  I’m more dubious about his initial strength, but who knows?  I think Priebus may be very close to him on first ballot, like 44-49, but we’ll see.

  12. Steven Drexler

    Gah! The mere thought of the RNC sets my teeth on edge. Is it just me? A bunch of insider’s insiders, literally an “old boys’” network. Wheeling and dealing in a multiple ballot election? Factions and cliques? In what way does this have anything to do with choosing a worthy leader of the only viable national party? We would be better off with an essay and rhetoric contest judged by Ricochet members and a randomly picked VFW post. Phooey.