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The field grows to chair the RNC out of this perfect political storm

November 25, 2008 |  9:14 am

To many people, being at the helm of the Republican Party at this point in history is at best a dubious distinction.

The GOP lost both houses of Congress by even more this year than in 2006, lost the White House in a pretty good thrashing, with the nation's first African American president and his attractive family building a head of steam in hope and public goodwill.

But just as awful hurricanes create awesome opportunities for roofing salesmen, political devastation opens new avenues of advancement for others to launch the laborious political rebuilding process that typically follows such democratic cleansings.

So competitors are starting to strut forward for chairmSouth Carolina state Republican chairman Katon Dawson is the latest to announce his candidacy to chair the Republican National Committeean of the Republican National Committee.

With no president in the White House to spot his own pick at party HQ, the RNC's state membership will select the new chair come January.

The latest to offer himself is Katon Dawson, the chair of the South Carolina party. (See photo.)

Loyal Ticket readers will remember Dawson for last summer calling Mike Huckabee one of the "nicest and kindest" politicians around.

More recently post-election, it was Dawson alone who spoke up in defense of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and criticized the brave anonymous aides of John McCain who spread stories about her personality and ignorance, while her former running mate remained silent.

Last week, as The Ticket reported, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele announced his candidacy to become the first African American chair of the party of Abraham Lincoln.

All of the candidates are likely to focus,logically, on rebuilding the Republican Party first, not at the kind of instinctive bickering that has characterized Washington for so long.Today, in his latest news conference President-elect Obama called it "sniping."

In his defense of Palin, Dawson, who earned rave reviews for erasing his state party's debt in recent years, perhaps gave an inkling of the platform for his campaign as party chair.

"Now is the time for our party to unite –- not behind any one individual," he said after Nov. 4, "but behind our time-tested principles of limited government, opportunity for working Americans, traditional values and individual responsibility."

Incumbent chair Mike Duncan has indicated his likely interest in staying on, despite all the defeats.

And Chip Saltsman, Huckabee's former campaign manager, has also expressed interest in pursuing the chairmanship held in recent years by Sen. Mel Martinez, Ken Mehlman, Ed Gillespie and former governors Marc Racicot and Jim Gilmore. MSNBC's First Read has more on the developing competition.

There'll probably be a couple more hopefuls as well before committee members gather to vote right around the time George W. Bush, the son of another former RNC chair, George H.W. Bush, moves out of the White House.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: South Carolina Republican Party