Turning their attention to the 2012 presidential election, Republican leaders are digging in for a battle over control of the Republican National Committee, judging that its role in fund-raising, get-out-the-vote operations and other tasks will be critical to the effort to topple President Obama.
Some senior party officials are maneuvering to put pressure on Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, not to seek re-election when his term ends in January or, failing that, to encourage a challenger to step forward to take him on.
So far, the effort has been tentative, with Mr. Steele’s most ardent opponents working behind the scenes to persuade an alternative to run against him ”” fearful that any overt moves will create a backlash in Mr. Steele’s favor among those committee members who tend to view the establishment in Washington with suspicion.
One man leading the effort is a Mississippi Republican Party committeeman, Henry Barbour, who is a nephew of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi ”” a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, himself. Governor Barbour is said by people involved in the discussions to be among those eager to see a change at the top of the party and recently criticized party fund-raising under Mr. Steele.