Steele Ally Reince Priebus Considering RNC Run, Gives Mixed Review of Steele Tenure
9:38 AM, Nov 12, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Are Michael Steele's days as RNC chairman numbered? This morning, Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, viewed as a Steele ally, offered a lukewarm endorsement of Steele's chairmanship and confirmed that top Republican officials are urging him to run against Steele. "I've certainly been getting a lot of phone calls," Priebus told THE WEEKLY STANDARD in a phone interview. "It puts me in a bizarre situation, I guess, as [RNC] general counsel, and that's why I've been pretty quiet about it in trying to deal with the issue of my candidacy internally with Michael [Steele] and members of the RNC." The Washington Post first reported that Mississippi committeeman Henry Barbour approached Priebus, who ran Steele's campaign for RNC chairman in 2008, about challenging Steele.
Priebus said he couldn't comment on the RNC's fundraising record under Steele because he serves as the committee's general counsel. "Not to be a party pooper, as a general counsel I really don't and can't talk about internal RNC issues in the press," Priebus told me. Asked to provide a more general evaluation of the RNC's performance during Steele's tenure, Priebus said: "There's been a lot of good things that have happened and there's been some bad things that have happened. And I'd just leave at that, John. That's as far as I'm going to go."
Should Priebus decide to run for RNC chairman, his ties to Steele could both help and hurt his candidacy, as there are sizeable pro- and anti-Steele factions in the committee. Priebus emphasized that the election for RNC chair in Janurary "is not a firing but a hiring. It's not who we're going to fire. It's who we're going to hire for the next two years."
Priebus presided over impressive victories as Wisconsin state party chairman: Republicans flipped a Senate seat, the state legislature, the state house, and two House seats to their column this year. Priebus credits the victories with "one, great candidates that are real, authentic, and genuine on the issues that mattered most, which in my mind were spending and debt and jobs," and "two, we invested at the state party in an enormous grassroots effort."