With RNC Vote on Tap, Can Michael Steele Keep His Job?

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The GOP's top priority for the next two years is clear: beat President Obama. Tomorrow, the Republican National Committee will decide which leader they want at the helm as the organization helps the party meet that goal.

One thing the RNC doesn't want is a leader who upstages their presidential candidate. Instead of a spokesman, the party committee is likely looking for a behind-the-scenes organizer who can strengthen the Republican presidential campaign's infrastructure and raise enough money to do so.

That doesn't bode well for the RNC's current chairman, Michael Steele, who is seeking another term, to much of the committee's chagrin.

During his two years as chairman, Steele often found himself in the spotlight for his verbal gaffes and outspoken nature. Under his tenure, the committee found its way into debt and spent its money on some injudicious expenditures, such as a trip to a topless club.

On the other hand, as Steele has emphasized, the Republican party enjoyed tremendous gains in the 2010 midterms. But the question remains whether those gains were made because of, or in spite of, Steele.

"Mike is a very nice guy, and I think he tried very hard," Chris Healy, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, told the National Journal. "But unfortunately the record is what it is, and the needs and the goals of the next 16 months are going to require something a little different, something more down in the trenches as opposed to being more in front of the lights."

There are four Republicans challenging Steele for the chairmanship of the RNC this year. The committee's 168 members will participate in run-off voting tomorrow at the RNC's annual Winter meeting in Maryland. The rounds of voting will continue until one candidate gets at least 85 votes, or more than half of the committee's support.

Steele's opponents are: Wisconsin state party chairman Reince Priebus, former Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis, former RNC official Maria Cino, and former ambassador Ann Wagner.

Priebus, by all accounts, is the front-runner in the race. According to the National Journal, he has at least 43 public votes of support from committee members. Priebus was once one of Steele's close allies but has promised to do a better job than the current chairman at fundraising.

Anuzis has put a strong emphasis on online activism and campaigning. Wagner has been one of Steele's more vocal critics, complaining at a recent debate that the RNC is "steeped in mismanagement."

Cino has argued that the GOP needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up, beginning with state parties. She recently received the endorsement of new House Speaker John Boehner, though the influence of non-RNC members will be limited in tomorrow's election.

Personal relationships within the RNC, however, do matter. And the tone of the discussion among members has been bitter. Ahead of tomorrow's election, Oregon GOP Chairman Bob Tiernan wrote an open letter slamming Oregon's national committee member, Solomon Yue, for his "anyone-but-Steele" campaign, Politico reports.

"A few members, very few, have decided to make this RNC Chairman's election their own personal war, to win at any cost, trashing Candidates to get another candidate elected," Tiernan wrote.

Once a chairman is elected, however, party members will have to put their heads down and focus on erasing the RNC's $20 million in debt before the presidential election kicks into full gear. The new chairman will quickly be faced with critical questions abut the GOP's 2012 presidential convention, as the National Journal points out. Steele has come under fire for already spending too much money on the event -- reportedly more than $162,000.

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