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Norm coleman Eyes Challenge to Michael Steele


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Norm Coleman eyes challenge to Michael Steele

By JONATHAN MARTIN | 7/22/10 4:28 PM EDT

Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman is considering a run for chairmanship of the RNC, POLITICO has learned, and has begun talking to associates about taking on Michael Steele, should the embattled current chairman seek another term in January.

Coleman is planning to attend the RNC’s summer meeting next month in Kansas City, in part to be on hand for a tribute to longtime New Jersey Committeeman David Norcross, who is stepping down from his party post. But senior Republicans say the former senator’s appearance at the committee’s gathering will also allow him to meet the party members who will pick the next chairman and signal to them that he’s interested in the job.

In the last month, Coleman has had private conversations with multiple high-level GOP officials about the party’s chairmanship in an attempt to sound out his prospects.

In an e-mail, the former St. Paul mayor said only that he was working to help Republicans in 2010.

“My focus is on the 2010 elections,” Coleman wrote in response to questions about his interest in the RNC post. “We have a huge opportunity to stop the Democrats’ out-of-control spending and losing the opportunity would be devastating for the country.”

A close confidante, however, said Coleman is “intrigued by the [RNC] opportunity.”

“He’s got a strong and growing interest in at least talking to people about if this makes sense for him to do,” said the confidante, who nonetheless emphasized that Coleman is thinking chiefly about this November’s elections.

That such a well-known party figure as Coleman is even engaged at this point in behind-the-scenes discussions about leading the party illustrates just how anxious many in the GOP are to push out Steele after this election cycle.

The current chairman has endured perhaps the most difficult period yet of his rocky 18 months at the helm of the RNC. The party had to amend its most recent FEC filing to show debt of over $2 million and the committee’s treasurer said this week the figure is closer to $7 million. The disclosures come just weeks after Steele was captured at a GOP fundraiser saying Afghanistan was President Barack Obama’s war and prospects for American victory there were dim.

The financial woes and Steele’s Afghanistan gaffe, both recurring themes of his tenure, have left many prominent figures in the party more angry than ever and determined to oust the chairman after this November’s election.

After losing his Senate reelection in 2008 by just 312 votes, Coleman became CEO of the American Action Network (AAN), a center-right organization designed to amplify conservative ideas and bolster conservative candidates. The group has recently begun spending considerable cash to air ads meant to help Republican Senate hopefuls in Washington and Florida and, along with other third-party outfits on the right that have sprung up in the last year, is expected to help fill the void left by the RNC’s fundraising struggles.

By virtue of his leadership with the group and his losing bid and high-profile recount against now-Sen. Al Franken, a despised figure on the right, Coleman has extensive national contacts in the GOP fundraising world and could help fill the party’s coffers in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election cycle.snip
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