RNC candidates announce new endorsements

As members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) arrive in Washington to elect a new chairman, more are making their preferences known with just days to go before the vote.

Incumbent Chairman Mike Duncan continues to lead by a significant margin. Vermont party chief Rob Roper and national committeewoman Susie Hudson got on board Monday night, and newly elected Iowa Party Chairman Matt Strawn announced on Tuesday that he would support Duncan.

The 39 public commitments Duncan boasts are impressive, and race-watchers say the incumbent will lead by a similarly large margin after the first ballot.

South Carolina Republican Party chief Katon Dawson is in second place after adding support from Tennessee party Chairman Robin Smith and national committee member John Ryder on Monday. Dawson has 20 public backers.

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele picked up support from Illinois GOP chairman Andy McKenna Tuesday afternoon, reaching 17 public endorsements, good enough for third place. 

Meanwhile, Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis picked up support from Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams. A political consultant who has been involved in several top races over the last several cycles, Wadhams is one of the committee members best-known to the media. Anuzis now boasts 16 endorsements.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell picked up his own endorsement Monday, bringing to 13 the number of public backers he boasts.

But public endorsements are only a single aspect of the race for RNC chairman. Steele, whom many see as a top challenger alongside the two state party chairmen, has not made a practice of releasing public commitments; his backers have made themselves known of their own accord and when asked by The Hill.

More than 100 of the 168 members of the national committee have endorsed candidates. 

Meanwhile, In the final days of the race, the already heated pace of anonymous attack e-mails has increased, and other influential members are making their feelings known.

On Monday, Indiana national committee member James Bopp Jr. penned an e-mail to about half the members of the RNC slamming Steele for his involvement in the centrist Republican Leadership Council. Steele’s association with the group has been an issue to at least a few members, though even Bopp does not question the Marylander’s conservative credentials.

Candidates will press the flesh in person over the next three days as the countdown to Friday’s vote marches on. Several candidates are already in Washington meeting with potential backers as part of a last-minute push.