American political parties are loose associations that lack any kind of formal structures. The two parties stretch across three broad categories -- the electorate, the party organization in place to facilitate the campaign, and the government. None of these parts of the party is formally connected to any other part, and even within each category there is not a great deal of coherence. Within the government, there is a party in the House and a party in the Senate, totally distinct from each other as well as from the state legislative caucuses.
The 168 RNC members have just cast their ballots in the first round of voting in the RNC election. Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus got 45 votes, Michael Steele 44, GOP operative Maria Cino 32, Michigan committeeman Saul Anuzis 24, and former Missouri chairman Ann Wagner 23. That's pretty much what most observers thought would happen on the first round--but with a stronger showing for Cino than expected. The ballots are secret, and most observers expect balloting to go a number of rounds until one candidate receives a majority.
The picture is pretty bleak for Michael Steele--a majority of RNC members have pledged to vote for someone other than Steele. So is there any chance he would throw his support to another candidate if the balloting doesn't go his way? "No," Steele told THE WEEKLY STANDARD yesterday. "I'm running to win. Capitulation is not a part of my vocabulary."
Following the RNC debate in Washington D.C. this afternoon, Chairman Michael Steele vigorously defended his controversial decision to spend RNC money on Republicans in the U.S. territories--a move that a number of RNC members saw as an unwise use of resources and a cynical attempt to win the votes of the 15 RNC members from the five territories. "Any chairman who comes into this job thinking he’s going to pick and choose between which state parties to help doesn’t need to be chairman," Steele told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "There is no choice. If you can help, you help. If it is in Guam or Florida, you do what is necessary for a Republican to win in those places."
The Republican National Committee will meet in January to choose a new chairman, and the reporters at Hotline's On Call blog have been keeping a running total of how many votes each candidate has been able to announce publicly. Michael Steele has publicly secured 15 delegates (85 are needed for victory), and I found some of his declared supporters quite interesting:
Earlier today we noted a Fox News report that claimed Michael Steele will announce he is not running for a second term as RNC chairman, but Fox reports now that Steele is running. For those on the edge of their seats, we'll know for sure if Steele is or is not running following his 7:30 p.m. conference call.
Morton Blackwell, an RNC committeeman from Virginia and head of the conservative Leadership Institute, has thrown his support to Saul Anuzis in the race for the Republican National Committee chairmanship. Blackwell writes in a letter to fellow RNC members:
Saul has excellent relationships across the country with social, economic and foreign policy conservatives. He worked successfully with Tea Party activists in Michigan who became a vital part of the winning coalition. He will build this same coalition nationally. Saul will provide the essential leadership to run and manage the RNC and put together a winning team and game plan to facilitate our wins in 2012.