Race To Succeed Barbour Heats Up
By Carin Dessauer/CNN
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 8) -- The race to succeed outgoing Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Haley Barbour is heating up and will be decided Jan. 17 in Washington, D.C., at the committee's winter meeting.
There is no clear front-runner, but four of the eight candidates are considered in the "top tier." Republican sources tell CNN's "Inside Politics" that outgoing New Hampshire Gov. Steve Merrill, RNC General Counsel David Norcross, Colorado RNC committeeman Jim Nicholson and Texas GOP Chairman Tom Pauken are all vying to come in on top in the first ballot and that about "half of the committee is undecided."
The race could turn on a mix of ideology, geography, nuts-and-bolts issues, personality and who can best fill the big shoes of Barbour, the outgoing chairman. Early on, the perception was that Merrill was hurt because he was not a member of the national committee, but the outgoing governor has run an aggressive campaign and some GOP operatives believe that he has momentum on his side. Norcross, an abortion rights supporter, can claim the support of more moderates as well as longtime party members, especially in the Northeast. Nicholson has his base of support in the West and Pauken, a staunch conservative, can claim support from right-wing conservatives and from Southern members.
To win, a candidate needs a simple majority of the 165 members; the big questions are how many ballots will it take and once candidates start dropping out, who will support whom?
"The real story is not the race for the first ballot, but for the second ballot," one longtime GOP operative told CNN.
All of the candidates, especially the top four, are working on getting the other contenders to support them should they drop out.
The other contenders not considered to be in the top tier are Ohio GOP Chairman Bob Bennett, Michigan RNC committeeman Chuck Yob, former RNC Co-chairman Jeanie Austin and California GOP Chairman John Herrington.
The territories could have an impact in the race if, as expected, they vote as a bloc with the state of Hawaii. This would equal 15 of the 83 votes needed. Each state and each territory has three votes (the chairman and two committeemen).
The race has taken on the tone of a real campaign as each of the candidates has sent letters and literature to all 165 RNC members. Some candidates have even distributed endorsement letters and sent out videos. Among those who are campaigning by video Merrill, Nicholson, Bennett and Austin.
To be nominated, a candidate must have the signatures and support of two members in three different states the morning of the vote. The vote will begin in the afternoon and could take hours depending upon how many ballots it takes.
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