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Former RNC chairman says Priebus is man to beat

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan says Reince Priebus is the man to beat at Friday's vote to elect the committee's next chairman, but warns he better lock it up early.

"He's definitely the front-runner right now and, depending on what happens on the first ballot, he could lock it up pretty quickly," Duncan told The Ballot Box.

Duncan said he wouldn't be all that surprised if Priebus has the race in hand as early as the third ballot Friday afternoon, but said the longer the vote drags on, the more the field will open up. 

Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, leads in the number of national committee members already pledged to support his bid. Candidates need 85 of the committee's 168 members to win. 

Duncan, who dropped his 2009 bid for reelection after a poor showing in early balloting, predicted Priebus could lose strength if the voting drags on Friday afternoon.  

Duncan noted that, while he doesn't expect Michael Steele to return as chairman or have a particularly strong early showing, "it certainly makes it tougher for [Priebus], the longer the vote goes on."

In 2009, Steele won on the sixth ballot, defeating South Carolina Party Chairman Katon Dawson 91-77.

If it's not wrapped up after three rounds of balloting, Duncan said folks should settle in for a long afternoon.


GOP fundraises off specter of another term of 'Speaker Pelosi'

House Republicans' campaign arm sought on Thursday to raise money off the possibility that Nancy Pelosi could become House Speaker again someday.

In an e-mail to supporters, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Executive Director Guy Harrison "urgently" warns readers about a comment Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) made on Wednesday.

"The new Chairman of the DCCC, Rep. Steve Israel, has decided to take a page from the NRCC’s 2010 strategy and make failed, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi one of the central themes of this election cycle — that’s right, he has said he wants to return the Speaker’s Gavel to Nancy Pelosi," the e-mail reads.

Israel said his goal is to win the 25 seats Democrats need to return them to the majority in 2012, and make Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the Speaker again.

Republicans enjoyed success during the campaign by criticizing Pelosi at every turn. The Republican National Committee launched a national "Fire Pelosi" bus tour, and vulnerable Democrats faced questions about whether they'd support Pelosi as Speaker.

In making Boehner's ouster in 2012 a top priority, Democrats are doing the same as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said just after the Nov. 2 election the GOP's most important goal is making President Obama a one-term president.

The statement by Israel and the e-mail by Harrison comes a day after the new Republican majority Congress was sworn into power. 


Former Steele ally backs challenger in RNC race

A former ally of Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele announced Sunday he is supporting one of his top challengers in the chairmanship race. 

California RNC committeeman Shawn Steel said he is supporting Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, according to The Washington Post,  a further indication that Steele faces an extremely difficult path to secure another term as party head.

Out of the six candidates running, no clear favorite has emerged to take Steele's place. But Priebus has secured the most public commitments from the committee's 168 voting members. A candidate needs to win the votes of 85 members to become chairman.

The RNC will elect its new chairman within a month's time. Other candidates besides Steele and Priebus are former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner, former Bush administration official Maria Cino and ex-RNC political director Gentry Collins.

So far, Priebus has secured the backing of more than 20 members, announcing the support of three other committee members aside from Steel on Sunday.

Steel wrote in the letter announcing his support that his "Key interest is to do what is best for the party," explaining that Priebus "demonstrates his principles from the candidates he recruits and his heart. He's always on message. He understands how to win, and his work as chairman in Wisconsin is a great example."


Former Hillary Clinton political director named executive director at DSCC

Longtime Democratic operative Guy Cecil will serve as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2012 cycle, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced Wednesday. 

Cecil succeeds J.B. Poersch and is tasked with helping Democrats keep their tenuous majority in the Senate given a tough 2012 map for the party.

“Guy is uniquely qualified to lead our efforts to keep Democrats in control of the US Senate,” DSCC Chair Patty Murray said in a statement. “He's a singular talent with the experience necessary to tackle the challenges and maximize the opportunities presented over the next two years. I'm thrilled he's agreed to join me as we work to deliver for the American people and strengthen our majority.”

Cecil served as national political director for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. 

He most recently served as chief of staff to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), helping steer him through a tough 2010 campaign against Republican Ken Buck.


Republican campaign committee fills key jobs

The National Republican Congressional Committee has promoted several staffers to top positions.

NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) announced Tuesday that Mike Shields, who directed the committee's Independent Expenditure arm in 2010, will become the new political director. He also worked as research director for the committee in the 2004 cycle.

Paul Lindsay will take over Ken Spain's role as communications director. Spain recently went into private practice.

Meanwhile, Jenny Sheffield Drucker was promoted to finance director.

Sessions said his staff's "institutional knowledge" will be helpful next cycle. "Mike, Jenny and Paul worked tremendously hard to build a Republican majority, and their expertise will help to ensure that we earn continued success in 2012," Sessions said in a statement. 

The NRCC helped the GOP win 63 seats and control of the House last cycle.


Steele appoints ally to top RNC job

Michael Steele appointed a key ally to the position of Republican National Committee general counsel.

Steele announced Friday he's asked Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norman Semanko to serve in the prestigious job.

"His exceptional qualifications will ensure the committee's sound legal footing and make sure that the resources are in place to continue to build on this year's historic elections," Steele, the RNC chairman, said in a statement.

Semanko, whose appointment to the volunteer position is subject to confirmation by the RNC, was one of 31 state GOP chairmen who backed Steele in the wake of a spending scandal last spring.

Steele has not yet announced whether he will seek a second term as RNC chairman.


DCCC continues to promote 2010 staffers

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continues to promote from within.

The committee on Friday revealed to staffers it has elevated Kelly Ward to the position of political director. She previously served as regional director of incumbent retention during the 2010 cycle, a source told The Ballot Box. The DCCC also promoted Travis Lowe, who had served as Midwest regional political desk. Lowe will now direct campaign operations for the committee.

The promotions come in the aftermath of a disastrous campaign cycle for the DCCC, in which it lost more than 60 seats and the Democratic majority in the House.

Still, Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the new DCCC chairman, has already moved to fill vacant positions with internal candidates. Israel announced on Monday that that Robby Mook would be the committee's next top staffer.

Mook led the DCCC's Independent Expenditure effort in the 2010 cycle. He replaces outgoing executive director Jon Vogel.