It is very rare for the Chairman of a party to face competition for reelection, especially in a year when they have had such a successful midterm election.  But the race for RNC has seen many challengers to the reelection of Michael Steel, and things look bleak for the incumbent.  The eventual winner needs a majority of the 168 members of the national committee, which means that no candidate can afford to have more than 83 members declare themselves opposed.   Politico’ surveyed the national committee and found 88 RNC votes have committed to other candidates, or say they just wont vote for Steele no matter who runs against him.

A week long canvass of the party’s governing board by POLITICO revealed 88 members who have decided not to vote for Steele, either opting to support one of his opponents or simply ruling out Steele as a choice in the race.

Fifty-five members, some of whom have endorsed one of Steele’s challengers, have signaled that they will not support the chairman under any circumstances. An additional 33 pledged their support elsewhere.

Further, whip counts kept by several of the chairman’s opponents suggest the Anybody-but-Steele bloc could be even larger, including as many as 90 to 100 members.

 Even more ominous for the current chairman is that not a single respondent said that Steele was their second choice. The race for party chair is likely to take multiple ballots, and the fact that Steele isn’t even a second choice indicates that it is not likely that he will be seen as a compromise choice picking up votes/momentum on later ballots. Steele’s election two years ago took six ballots.

While Steele supporters insist that he is still viable – and that vigorous efforts to oust him may even have provoked a backlash among some committee members – his support seems to have hit a ceiling.  

He has held on to a core of backers, many of them from small states like Idaho and Montana, and territories such as the Virgin Islands. But he has added few public supporters since declaring his re-election bid a week before Christmas.

So while it is now highly unlikely that the former Maryland lieutenant governor–and the RNC’s first black chairman–can win another two-year term the race to succeed Steele is far less clear. Just over a week before the RNC gathers in suburban Washington to pick its chairman for the 2012 cycle, none of Steele’s challengers is close to having the support of a majority of the committee.

Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has emerged as the frontrunner in the contest. He is the first choice right now of 32 members and the second choice of three more, according to the canvass. That could put him in a position to best Steele on the first ballot, but still fall well short of the 85 votes needed to win.

After Priebus are former Missouri Republican Party Chair Ann Wagner, who clocked 13 supporters in the canvass, and Michigan RNC Committeeman Saul Anuzis with 11. Five members gave Wagner their second-choice endorsement. Four members, three of whom are currently supporting Steele, said they would back Anuzis as a second choice. The Michigander has sought to avoid criticizing Steele too much in hopes of picking up some of the incumbent’s loyalists in later rounds of voting.

Steele’s problem is two fold, he has been a big failure at fund raising, and leaves the party in debt to the tune of $20 million dollars. Beyond fund raising, during his tenure as Chairman Steele’s feet tended to reside firmly in his mouth as he made gaffe after gaffe:

  • He picked a verbal battle with Rush Limbaugh
  • He Publicly agreed with Radio Host Vincent David Jericho’s harsh criticism of Republican Missouri Representative Roy Blunt
  • In a 2009 Town Hall he hinted his support for Obamacare “I believe in health care for all” and bashed those who protest at Town Hall meetings. 
  • The Washington Times reported that Steele was using his position as RNC chair to personally profit by charging fees for speeches and appearance of up to $20,000 (plus expenses for first class travel)
  • Opposed the Afghanistan war saying it “a war of Obama’s choosing” and “not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

…Just to name a few.  The point is that Party Chair people are like baseball umpires, if their name is in the news very often then they are not doing their job well. Michael Steele’s name was in the press too often, and usually for the wrong reason. His reelection campaign is done, the only thing left to do is stick a fork in it.