The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Maria Cino close to announcing run for RNC chair

Maria Cino is waiting to see how the field of possible challengers shapes up before making a final decision as to whether she will challenge Michael Steele for Republican National Committee chairman, The Daily Caller has learned.

The former Bush administration and RNC official, who has also worked in a variety of other high-profile positions in Republican politics and government, will be paying close attention over the next two weeks as to whether Steele runs for re-election, according to a knowledgeable source.

Cino, who now works for Pfizer pharmaceuticals, declined to comment for this story. But TheDC learned that she plans to position herself as an experienced, behind the scenes day-to-day manager, rather than someone — as Steele is often portrayed — trying to get a Fox News contract or book deal.

She has been encouraged — and has received favorable responses — from elected officials, committee members and GOP staff about a potential run.

One of Cino’s closest friends, veteran GOP operative Mary Matalin, offered her full support in an interview, saying “there’s no better qualified, no better experienced” person to lead the RNC.

“I don’t know why they aren’t down on their knees drafting her to do this,” said Matalin, who made Cino the godmother of her two daughters.

Cino, she said, has not asked her to make calls to committee members yet on her behalf, though Matalin says she’ll do it if asked.

Matalin played up Cino’s extensive work experience, including her stint as acting-secretary of the Department of Transportation, deputy chairwoman of the RNC and CEO of the Republican National Convention in 2008 and her proximity to Republican speaker-to-be John Boehner and others on the Hill.

Matalin, however, went out of her way to make the argument that Cino’s years in Washington doesn’t mean she’s the wrong fit during the age of the Tea Parties. “All of that would seem to add up like she’s an establishment person, but she isn’t,” Matalin said. “She’s a Catholic, blue collar Italian from Buffalo.”

Matalin says Cino doesn’t “have an enemy in the world” and “has a legion of loyal people” who would help her make the RNC a “turn-key operation.”

“All these people would come with her. They’d quit what they were doing and come work for her,” she said.

Former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, who called Cino a “a great operative that has much to offer,” has already announced his intentions to challenge Steele, and a long list of others are said to be contemplating a run.

Those potential candidates include, according to various reports: Gentry Collins, a former Steele aide; Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus; former RNC Chair Mike Duncan; RGA Executive Director Nick Ayers; Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy; former North Dakota GOP Chairman Gary Emineth and California GOP Chairman Ron Nehring.