Michael Steele calling it quits?

Some expect GOP chief -- haunted by Limbaugh, abortion and a pricey bill at a bondage club -- to step aside today

Published December 13, 2010 3:14PM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Two years ago, the campaign for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee brought us “Barack the Magic Negro” and a whites-only country club. What does next month’s RNC election have in store for us?

Not Michael Steele, apparently. Tonight, the embattled RNC chairman will announce his decision on a re-election bid, and all signs point to his stepping aside.

On Saturday night, Steele sent an email to committee members, inviting them to join him for a private conference call at 7:30 tonight:

"Dear Members, Please join me for a private conference call, Monday December 13th at 7:30pm (EST). For your personal conference code please RSPV to ... Thank you, and I look forward to talking to you Monday evening. Michael."

Several publications are reporting that Steele is expected to announce his decision not to run for re-election. Politico was among the first to report that Steele would probably bow out -- yet the Politico story emphasized twice that Steele’s allies say he has not revealed his plans.

Two main signs point to a decision to step aside. First, Steele has not built the kind of campaign team needed to fend off tough challenges from a growing list of potential opponents. Second, the format of tonight’s call makes a re-election bid unlikely:

Three Steele critics who received the e-mail said they took the fanfare-free message as an indication that he is unlikely to mount a reelection bid.

The call will give Steele an extended platform to deliver a message to his committee. But if he were announcing a run, he would be more likely to build support by contacting members individually.

Last month, Steele presided over the biggest landslide victory in the House of Representatives in more than 60 years, as well as more modest gains in the Senate. But Steele has drawn criticism for uttering whatever thoughts happen to enter his head -- including two major no-nos for a Republican: calling abortion an "individual choice" and attacking Rush Limbaugh’s show as "incendiary" and "ugly" -- and for poor fundraising efforts that have seen the RNC consistently outraised by its Democratic counterpart. This March saw the "nail in the coffin" for Steele, according to a Tea Party leader, when The Daily Caller revealed that the RNC had dropped nearly $2,000 at high-end Hollywood bondage club.

Steele, the first African-American chairman of the RNC, will be succeeded by the winner of a RNC election whose front-runners include a man accused of race-baiting and defending a white nationalist, and a guy named Gentry. This ought to be fun.

By Aaron Wiener

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Michael Steele Republican Party