Saul Anuzis: I’m not running an anti-Michael Steele campaign

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Saul Anuzis says he’s not running to lead the Republican National Committee just so members can fire Chairman Michael Steele.

“I’m not running an anti-Steele campaign,” Anuzis, a national GOP committeeman and former state GOP chair from Michigan, told The Daily Caller by phone Friday. “My pitch and my argument to the members is that the circumstances [of the committee] have changed.”

Anuzis, a first generation Lithuanian immigrant who didn’t learn to speak English until he was 7, is making the argument that the needs of the RNC are different today then they were when Steele was elected chairman in 2009. Steele, who is black, was a natural fit for the GOP when they were looking for a face and able spokesman for the party to rebut incoming President Obama.

But things are different today, or at least that is what Anuzis is telling the 168 members of the committee. The Republican Party, he says, needs someone who can reestablish “credibility amongst the donors,” rebuild the party infrastructure and implement a strong “get out the vote” program in the states.

Another key part of Anuzis’ case is the fact that he’s always lived and worked in Michigan — and not Washington, D.C. — at a time when party activists, especially those associated with the Tea Party, have a negative opinion of those who reside within the Beltway.

Anuzis, who says he’s been involved in hundreds of campaigns at the tactical and strategic level over the last 30 years, also says coming from a tossup state “that tends to be purple and can go red under the right circumstances” shows that he’s used to having to oversee “aggressive campaign” efforts like the type that will be critical in 2012.

Anuzis, who also ran for chairman in 2009, is the only candidate who has publicly announced his intentions to run this time. Steele has not yet said whether he’ll seek another term. Committee members will meet in January to elect a new chairman.

Katon Dawson, who came in second to Steele in 2009 and who hasn’t ruled himself out yet as candidate this election, said by phone that Anuzis could have better luck this year, considering how he’s trying “lock up votes early.”

“Saul could be successful,” said Dawson, a former GOP state chair in South Carolina.

But he strongly made the point that committee members don’t act fast in getting behind candidates, especially because more will get in the race. “The field’s not full,” he said.

Dawson added: “I’m certainly interested in finding somebody who we think is capable of running the RNC. Certainly it looks like Chairman Steele has a very, very high hill to climb to get re-elected.”

The race will start to really take shape between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the first week of December, the RNC’s Conservative Steering Committee will meet. It will be apparent then who the serious candidates will be.

The long list of those thinking of running or have been mentioned as possible candidates also includes: former RNC official Maria Cino; former Steele aide Gentry Collins; former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman; Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus; former RNC chair Mike Duncan; RGA executive director Nick Ayers; Connecticut GOP chairman Chris Healy and California GOP chairman Ron Nehring.

This story is part of The Daily Caller’s new series profiling possible candidates for RNC chairman. See our past story on Maria Cino.