Mike Duncan, who presided over the Republican National Committee from 2007 to 2009 before losing his bid for a second term to the current chairman, Michael Steele, is being encouraged to challenge Steele and is seriously considering such a move.
“Mike has been encouraged by a number of people to consider running,” said a source close to Duncan, a 60-year old veteran of Republican politics who lives in Kentucky.
The Duncan associate said that the former chairman “has a great job and is happy where he is and has made no decisions.”
“But people are encouraging him actively to do it,” he said.
The conflict within the GOP over whether a clear contender will emerge to challenge Steele is expected to reach a head this week, as the time to campaign grows shorter ahead of the RNC’s vote in January on its next chairman.
Many within the party adamantly do not want Steele to gain a second term. They say he has been a profligate spender who deprived the party of key financial and get out the vote resources that could have translated into an even bigger win than the GOP had last Tuesday.
Heading into an election cycle where the goal will be to defeat President Obama’s reelection effort, most Republicans in Washington believe Steele is the wrong man for the job.
Steele defended himself Friday in a round table with reporters at RNC headquarters, one in a string of interviews he has done since the Tuesday returns to defend his record.
“I inherited a party that no one wanted to be a part of,” Steele said. “There were a number of steps that we had to take to get us to the point where this past Tuesday could happen.”
Steele has cast himself as a Tea Party ally as well, appearing at movement events and speaking along side former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and paying her legal bills and receiving fundraising help from Palin, though they deny it was a quid pro quo. But Saturday, one leader of a Tea Party group called for Steele to resign.
“Michael Steele needs to go and someone from the Tea Party needs to take his place,” said Judson Phillips, founder of Tennessee-based Tea Party Nation, saying that Steele has spent money “like a drunken Democrat.”
But no clear contender has emerged to take Steele on. Duncan is one of several names that have been whispered, along with North Dakota GOP chairman Gary Emineth, Michigan national committee member Saul Anuzis, whose run in 2009 many think cost Duncan his chance at a second term, and David Norcross, an RNC member from New Jersey.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has been asked by members of the party to run against Steele, and would easily brush Steele aside if he did, according even to Steele supporters. But so far, Barbour has made clear he is not interested, as he considers a run for president in 2012.
There are 168 voting RNC members, and Steele currently is thought to have around 50 votes in his pocket, starting with the block of 15 votes from the five U.S. territories, which he has paid lots of attention to. He will need to get to 85 to win a second term.