In many ways, it seems odd that Steele could very well lose, after a cycle in which the GOP made big gains in offices large and small. And if there's one thing we've learned about Steele, it's that he has an impressive ability to weather scandals and gaffes that would fell others. But now, after all those gaffes and scandals, his opponents are now striking back in the open at election time.
Steele faces a crowded field of challengers that includes: Priebus, a former Steele ally whose smashing success at painting his state red this year has helped him shoot to the top; former Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis (also a previous 2009 RNC candidate, and the first challenger to get in this time); former Bush Administration official Maria Cino (who has been endorsed by Dick Cheney); former Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner; and to top it all off, former high-ranking Steele aide Gentry Collins.
As the most recent whip counts from Politico and National Journal show, Priebus is in first place with the support of 26 RNC voters, followed by Steele at 15 -- an awful place to be for an incumbent -- with Anuzis and Wagner at 11 apiece, Cino 6, and Collins 3.
The problem is a number of Tea Party Republicans aren't any happier with the front-runners than they are with Steele. The Tea Party long-shot is the guy currently in the back of the pack: Gentry Collins. Collins is picking up some unlikely endorsements, too, like Connecticut state RNC head Chris Healy.
These are the hard truths. Each Member is entitled to support who they believe is best suited to lead our Party through a critical time. I am supporting Gentry Collins because he comes to the job with experience, knowledge and credibility. He handled his job under difficult circumstances and saw it through before opting to run for it himself. Some have questioned his loyalty, but if anything, Gentry showed he was true to the Members and the activists by sorting out conflicting information and unmet commitments from Steele and his inner circle.
The fight will heat up on Monday at Grover Norquist's