Incumbent RNC Chairman Steele will not be dropping out on any ballot during the RNC chair elections this week, his campaign chair told FrumForum.
The RNC chair election rules do not require candidates with the lowest amount of support to drop out after a ballot. As such, a candidate with even a relatively small number of supporters could hang on until a winner emerges with 85 votes out of the 168 member body.
Asked if there was a circumstance in which Steele would drop out of balloting, Holly Hughes, Steele’s campaign chair and the National Committeewoman from Michigan, told FrumForum: “No, he’s in it to win it… he is going to be in this election right until the end.”
“I fully expect him to go all the way in this election… he’s going to do every ballot until he wins,” Hughes told FrumForum.
Steele’s chances for winning this election are small, given his controversial term. If he has even a slim chance, he may reason that it rests on him hanging on for a head to head ballot with one remaining candidate.
FrumForum had recently reported about the potential for an Anuzis-Steele deal and the friendly relationship between the two candidates, but Hughes waved off such suggestions.
When FrumForum inquired as to whether Steele might be considering dropping out and supporting fellow candidate and Michigan National Committeeman Saul Anuzis, Hughes said that “Chairman Steele doesn’t make any deals.”
Those who know Steele are not surprised that he would stay on, ballot after ballot, regardless of whether his support is waning.
“I think he knows that he’s not going to win. I think a lot of it is that he’s in for pride’s sake, that he wants to defend himself,” said one Republican strategist who knows Steele and has worked with him in the past. “The one thing about Michael Steele is that when you try to push him out, it makes him more stubborn. And that’s what this really is – any other person would have stepped down.”
“He’s very defiant right now. He’s rallied around a group of people who… are defending him to the death,” continued the Republican strategist.
There is precedence for RNC chairman candidates declining to drop out despite limited support. In 2009, Ken Blackwell hung on for four rounds of balloting with support declining from twenty votes to fifteen. In 1997, former U.S. Secretary of Energy John S. Herrington remained on the ballot for four rounds with between three and four votes. Neither of them, however, stayed on until the final ballot.
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