Steele Challengers Begin Piling Up, Creating Opening For Steele

11/18/2010 01:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The campaign for the next chair of the Republican National Committee is heating up in the wake of the committee's political director penning a harsh resignation letter that accused current chair Michael Steele of gross mismanagement.

Even before Gentry Collins leaked his anti-Steele screed to the press, there were challengers for the chairman's post. former Michigan GOP header Saul Anuzis announced that he was running, with the support of former rival and fellow Michigan Republican John Yob. But Anuzis is hardly a consensus pick, let alone an obvious Steele alternative. And in the days since Collins let his dissatisfaction be known, a number of names have been floated. The list includes Collins himself, former Missouri state chair Ann Wagner, and Wisconsin state chair Reince Priebus.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, Politico reported that former North Dakota Republican Party chairman Gary Emineth emailed supporters a blistering critique of Steele's tenure and isn't ruling out a run for the post. On Thursday, former RNC official Maria Cino made an official announcement of her candidacy for the position. That same day, incoming Republican Governor's Association header Rick Perry, suggested that the RGA's prodigious political director, Nick Ayers, could be a good fit as the head of the RNC, despite being just 28 years old.

There is, in short, a veritable void to fill and no shortage of possibilities as to who should or could fill it. That a number of state officials or behind-the-scenes operatives are having their names floated isn't particularly surprising. There's a good shot that a long shot ends up there.

But the process hasn't been without concern for others in the GOP tent and, conversely, could end up being to Steele's benefit. A packed field, without a true national name (though one could emerge), doesn't necessarily present the committee members with a de facto Steele alternative. As one big-time Republican donor and RNC member noted:

"None of us voted for Michael. He did some good things. But we supported Haley [Barbour], who did a fabulous job at the RGA... We just didn't have confidence that our investment was being handled properly at the RNC. I was particularly concerned and reached out a number of times. I didn't think we had a good ground game. And while we raised money, the question is where did he spend the money?"

"Right now, we are getting calls from everyone who wants to replace him," the official added. "It's always the same pitch: '[Steele] didn't do this, he didn't do that.' I haven't frankly heard from anyone yet who I thought would be a hell of a lot better. You can't beat somebody with nobody. If Haley [Barbour] would run, which he won't, if Newt would put someone in there or if Ed [Gillespie] were to run we would be happy... but at this point in time, I wouldn't say there is anyone there who I would support over Steele. Though I don't want to support Steele."

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