Heading into the RNC meeting and election this week, the Hotline reports that Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus remains the frontrunner in the race for RNC chairman. The winner needs 85 of the 168 RNC votes, and Priebus has 38 publicly declared supporters, while former Michigan GOP chairman and current Michigan committeeman Saul Anuzis has 14; former Missouri chairman and RNC co-chairman Ann Wagner has 14; and former Bush administration official and RNC official Maria Cino has 12. Michael Steele has 17, but a majority of RNC members have publicly pledged to vote for someone other than him. The supporters of Anuzis, Cino, and Wagner could band together behind one of those candidates to really give Priebus a run for his money during the balloting.
While Priebus is the frontrunner, he has not answered the central question about his candidacy. Priebus claims to be running for chairman because the RNC was mismanaged under Michael Steele, while Priebus served as the RNC's general counsel. So what, if anything, did Priebus do at the RNC to right the course before the election? Did he tell Michael Steele to spend more time fundraising and less time on TV? Did he support the RNC's giving money to U.S. territories?
Connecticut GOP chairman Chris Healy has said that Priebus was in charge of "damage control" for Steele, and worked over RNC members to issue statements of support for Steele in the wake of the chairman's gaffes. Is this true? What actions would Priebus take to restore donor confidence?
Priebus slipped out of the RNC debate last Monday before I had a chance to ask him any of these questions, and he has not replied to emails requesting an interview. Other candidates in the RNC race have faced and answered tough questions: Maria Cino talked to the Susan B. Anthony List about her donations and support for a pro-abortion GOP political action committee (she says she was just trying to elect Republicans), and Saul Anuzis explained in an email to Politico why he has supported the National Popular Vote proposal (it's a states' issue, he says, and he would take no position as RNC chairman). Even Michael Steele was willing to defend his decision to give RNC money to Guam.
If Priebus wants to be RNC chairman, he will have to answer (at least occasionally) questions from the national press. He might want to prove to the RNC's members that he's capable of answering difficult questions before the election.