RNC Gathers To Choose New Leader

January 14, 2011

Frank James

Don Gonyea
Maria Cino sign.
Don Gonyea
Woman with Michael Steele bumper stickers.
Don Gonyea
Ann Wagner button.
Don Gonyea
Reince Priebus signs.
Don Gonyea
Saul Anuzis football play sign.

Members of the Republican National Committee are gathering in Washington (actually just outside the nation's capital at the massive Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just across the river in Maryland) to elect a new chair.

As NPR's Don Gonyea reported on Morning Edition, RNC chair Michael Steele is running for re-election but many observers aren't betting on him to repeat because of his controversial tenure and the organization's money problems.

The RNC has 168 members and whoever is to be the next chair must get 85 votes to win. It may take a number of rounds before one candidate gets

Roll Call explains the process. Here's an excerpt:

The five candidates for chairman have been campaigning to win over RNC members, each with their own individual interests at play. When the hopefuls can’t win someone’s vote, they ask to be considered as a second choice, since voting often goes to multiple ballots.

The complicated process and unusual rules of the chairmanship vote are just the beginning. Members, who are elected in different ways in each state, must guard their own positions, and some are eyeing higher roles within the party structure.

If history serves as any indicator, the race won’t be over quickly, and relationships can be frayed when it’s over.

“Until you’ve seen it, it’s sort of hard to understand,” former RNC Committeeman David Norcross told Roll Call. “It’s really like an old-time convention. There’s a misconception that the lowest person in votes has to drop out. That is not the case. You can stay in as long as you want.”

In 2009, the RNC elected current Chairman Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, over four opponents in the course of six ballots. A candidate needs 85 votes to win, but having a small number of votes doesn’t mean a candidate has to drop out. Steele led only in the last two ballots (though he tied with then-Chairman Mike Duncan for the lead on the second ballot).

Don is over at the Gaylord and sends some photos from the scene and signage. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.