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Michael Steele Could Face Major Opposition Effort From RNC Members

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UPDATE: Saul Anuzis is set to challenge Michael Steele for the RNC chairman's post.

EARLIER:

Michael Steele's path to a second term as chairman of the Republican National Committee is getting increasingly tangled, as reports Thursday suggest that the effort to recruit a viable replacement has expanded considerably.

According to Hotline On Call, the mobilization effort to draft a Steele challenger is contingent on one main condition:

Those who want Steele out have been searching for a candidate who could unite two factions -- one that opposes Steele explicitly and one that believes the RNC should take a new direction but harbors little ill will against the incumbent chairman.

The mission, which Hotline On Call reports is being masterminded by GOP figureheads Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, has chalked up a short list of workable names to put forth.

Politico breaks down a pool of Republicans thought to be waiting in the wings for Steele's post:

According to RNC insiders, among those whose names are being floated to replace Steele -- or are floating their own names -- are [Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince] Priebus, [New Jersey Committeeman David] Norcross, former Michigan Chairman Saul Anuzis, former North Dakota Chairman Gary Emineth, California Chairman Ron Nehring, Texas Committeeman Bill Crocker, District of Columbia Committeeman Tony Parker, former RNC Deputy Chairwoman Maria Cino, RNC Co-Chair Jan Larimer and former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, who lost his reelection bid to Steele.

Potential challengers are likely holding off to see if Michael Steele can be convinced not to run for another term, a prospect that is looking possible as the chairman appears increasingly pressed by colleagues to step aside.

While some, such as RNC committee member Henry Barbour, have been blunt but respectful about Steele's future, saying that they "like" him while adding that a leadership shakeup is clearly necessary, others have been less sparing in their criticism.

Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy, also reportedly on a list of possible Steele opponents, told Roll Call Wednesday: "I think I can give the RNC what it needs over the next two years. I don't have any confidence that the current management can get it done."

Despite the badmouthing from within the party and a record of some high-profile gaffes and missteps, some see Steele's prospects for maintaining his chairman role as solid, despite the enlistment effort.

David Frum explains Steele's hand:

Each state, the five territories, and the District of Columbia have three votes to elect the chairman of the RNC, and Steele has a good shot at garnering the 85 votes needed to win.

Steele's incumbent advantages have given him an early lead. For example, his recent "Fire Pelosi" bus tour included stops in 48 states, and even his closest supporters won't deny that it has allowed him the benefit of reaching out to many of the committee's members. As chairman of the RNC, Steele has also been able to steer money towards his allies.

At any rate, experts expect competitors to break their silence and officially announce their campaigns as soon as next week at an RGA meeting in California.

If an apt challenger eventually emerges from this group, they will head to the RNC's winter meeting on January 14-15 of next year to face committeemembers in a vote to decide Michael Steele's future as chairman -- assuming he's still in the running by then.

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