Internal GOP Fight Over Next RNC Chair

UPDATE: Newt Gingrich denies reports of a fight and bows out of the race for RNC chair. Fox News reports:

Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, has decided to run for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee and is in talks with Newt Gingrich to win the former House speaker's endorsement, FOX News learned Tuesday.

Steele declined to comment, but a source close to the situation said Steele would announce his candidacy as early as Thursday.

The source also contradicted a report in Tuesday's Washington Times that Steele and Gingrich were competing for the RNC post.

"There is no fight," the source said. "This tension between Michael Steele and Newt Gingrich is totally fabricated and, in fact, Gingrich and Steele are working together to create a new strategy for the direction of the GOP."

In a statement issued by the former House speaker, Gingrich said he was not interested in seeking the post of Republican Party chairman.

"A number of people have asked me to consider running for Republican National Committee chair. They have been very flattering, and I am very honored by their support," he said.

"However, my job as an American first is to develop a tri-partisan approach to developing solutions for the challenges we face. I use the word tri-partisan to designate the concept of attracting Democrats, Republicans, and independents to solutions that unify most Americans."

The Washington Times reports:

A behind-the-scenes battle to take the reins of the Republican National Committee is taking off between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls.

The New York Times adds:

Mr. Duncan was installed by Mr. Bush, and the fight over his post reflects the effort by many party leaders to erase any remnant of the Bush legacy.

These struggles come as the party prepares for a broad ideological battle, in particular over how much to emphasize social issues like opposition to abortion rights and gay rights. Party leaders said the focus on those issues had constricted the party's appeal to moderate and independent voters more interested in jobs, health care, education and other issues that touch their lives in more concrete ways.

"We can't be obsessed with issues that are not the issues that are important to American voters," said Jim Greer, the Florida Republican chairman and a likely candidate for national party leader.

Across the party, Republicans described this period as one of the toughest in recent history, reflected by the scope of the losses last Tuesday but also by the recriminations that have gripped the party as it seeks to learn lessons from Mr. McCain's defeat and Mr. Bush's presidency.


The most important question for Republicans in both the House and the Senate -- and for the future Republican chairman -- is how forcefully to take on Mr. Obama once he becomes president. Richard N. Bond, a former Republican chairman, said he thought the Congressional Republicans would -- and should -- take on Mr. Obama aggressively. Mr. Bond suggested that Republicans should not be deterred by the enthusiasm inspired by Mr. Obama's election, which he argued would be transitory.

"When people wake up from their Bush hangovers, six months from now," Mr. Bond said, "it is my belief that they are not going to be buying into some of the things that Obama will potentially be doing. You have a real potential for these guys making a fundamental misjudgment of this election. They just didn't want George Bush anymore."

But Mr. Gingrich, a veteran of what turned out to be damaging Republican wars with President Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1994, cautioned against that, saying the party would be wiser to offer a broad idea of what it stood for and how it would lead the country, and pick its battles carefully.

Sam Stein wrote for the Huffington Post recently about the split within the Republican Party over how to work with President Obama.