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Who is Next to Lead Republicans?

Who is Next to Lead Republicans?

By Kyle Trygstad - December 4, 2008

After losing at least 50 House seats, 15 Senate seats and the White House in the last two elections, candidates for chairman of the Republican National Committee are coming forth with their plans for how to put the party back on the right track. But which one will emerge as the GOP's next leader?

When narrowing down the list of potential chairmen, several key Republican players come to mind. Not all of the following six candidates have officially declared bids yet, but all are considered serious contenders should they throw their hats in the ring.

Chip Saltsman is most recently known for running Mike Huckabee's surprisingly successful presidential campaign, in which he outlasted such one-time front runners as Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. From Tennessee, Saltsman's resume also includes stints as chairman of the state Republican Party; development director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee; political adviser for Bill Frist's political action committee, VOLPAC; and helping form a presidential exploratory committee for Frist leading up to the 2008 elections.

Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer has served in his current position since being appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist. Before his appointment, Greer was elected to two terms on the City Council of Oviedo, located northeast of Orlando, and served as Seminole County chairman for Crist's gubernatorial campaign. Greer hasn't officially announced his intentions, and it's unclear where he would stand against other more-conservative candidates.

Michael Steele currently serves as chairman of GOPAC, which recruits and helps elect Republicans to state and local offices -- the GOP's version of a farm system. Steele was elected Maryland's lieutenant governor in 2002 and served in that capacity until 2006. Rather than run for re-election alongside Gov. Bob Ehrlich (who lost), Steele made and lost a bid for Maryland's open U.S. Senate seat. Steele has experience running parties: he chaired the Prince George's County GOP from 1994-2000 and the Maryland GOP from 2000-2002.

RNC chairman Mike Duncan has a thick resume, one which helped get him elected as chairman following the 2006 elections. The Kentucky native previously served as Treasurer and General Counsel of the RNC, and he worked on the campaigns of the last five Republican presidents. The question is: Will the RNC vote to keep on a leader who oversaw the loss of a presidential election and at least 20 House seats and seven Senate seats, whether or not any of those were his fault?

Katon Dawson has served as the South Carolina Republican Party chairman since June 2002, one of the longest-serving state GOP chairs in the country. The Columbia-based auto parts salesman is said to be an excellent fundraiser, and he boasts about his record of helping elect Republicans at every level of government in his southern state -- eight of the nine current statewide officeholders are Republicans. In building support for his bid, Dawson hosted a conference in Myrtle Beach last month with party officials from around the country.

Saul Anuzis, chairman of a telecommunications firm, has served as the Michigan Republican Party chairman since 2005. Known as energetic and a tech-savvy blogger, the former Teamster and current Harley Davidson rider has worked in Michigan politics since being elected as a young delegate to the 1980 Republican National Convention. However, Michigan's loss of two U.S. House seats and being uncompetitive in the presidential election could work against the conservative Anuzis's bid.

The election for RNC chair is expected to take place Jan. 28-31 in Washington, D.C., when the RNC holds its 2009 Winter Meeting.

Kyle Trygstad is a Washington correspondent for RealClearPolitics. Email him at: kyle@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @KyleTrygstad.

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