Steele for president in 2012? Yes, he might
If Republican candidates roll to big victories in today's elections, it could move at least one Republican closer to a 2012 presidential run: National Party Chairman Michael S. Steele.
For some time, the former Maryland lieutenant governor has been open to a presidential try. The scuttlebutt from folks who work at national party headquarters is that he thinks he’s going to be a presidential candidate in 2012.
A Republican turnaround after back-to-back defeats in the last two elections could advance Steele's presidential ambitions. He'd be a distinct longshot as a candidate; but if he outperformed expectations, there's no way of knowing where, exactly, he might wind up.
Today, Steele is making the rounds in New Jersey and Virginia, two Barack Obama states that Republicans hope to win in the only governor's elections of 2009.
Tonight, Steele will be all over cable TV. On Wednesday morning he plans to declare victory at a rare Washington press conference.
National party chairmanships aren't typical launching pads for a presidential candidacy (just the opposite in the case of Howard Dean, whose election as head of the Democratic National Committee was a consolation prize after his 2004 primary campaign flamed out).
Steele's army of critics, in both major parties, would no doubt say that he is a potential president only in his own mind. But that's where presidential runs start in modern politics.
And the notion of a Steele for President campaign isn’t completely far-fetched, at least to Steele.
Last spring, he was asked if he had ever thought about it. He replied, “without blinking, without hesitation, straight up,” that the answer was “no.”
Then he went on to say that he would consider becoming a presidential contender “if the opportunity were there and it was right.”
At the time, Obama was riding high and Steele had faltered repeatedly in his first of months as party chairman.
Since then, Steele has won plaudits for the RNC's fund-raising performance. And there is no longer any talk about cutting short his two-year term as head of the Republican National Committee.
“You know, God has a way of revealing stuff to you and making it real for you through others," Steele told CNN in that March 25 interview. "If that's part of the plan, it'll be the plan,”
Should tonight turn out to be a big one for Republicans, one national party leader may interpret the message that voters are sending as "Run, Michael, run."
A Steele adviser heatedly denied that there was anything to chatter about a presidential bid.
"There's no merit to it. There's no truth to it," said Curt Anderson, a Republican consultant who played a key role in Steele's successful RNC campaign. "He's just trying to raise money and win elections. That's what he's trying to do."