After speaking with people involved with the RNC Chairman race, it's becoming clear that the contours of the race have to do with two things: Is the candidate a conservative, and is the candidate willing to do the work. But there's also a third point: Is the candidate a committeeman in the RNC?
Michael Steele has problems here. For one thing, he's not a committeeman. Another, he didn't even want to run as a real Republican in his Maryland race. And lastly, his work at GOPAC has been lackluster (as Quin has said).
According to my sources (and I'll be updating this post continually as I get more) Fred Thompson is in talks with Chuck Yob, a party veteran. Thompson would play the role of General Chair (the role that typically serves as figurehead), and Yob would be the RNC Chair, taking on the administrative tasks and the day-to-day operations of recruiting candidates.
Thompson plays well in the south, and would get a lot of support from what would otherwise be South Carolina RNC chair Katon Dawson's backyard. It would also allow a better-known voice to speak for the party.
Roger Villere, chairman of Louisiana's GOP, tells me that the only reason Newt and Steele appear to be frontrunners are that they have good public relations people and they have big names. But among committee members, that's hardly a qualification.
"A lot of RNC members have been left out. A lot of people don't feel like they've been used. Or even taken seriously. That's one of the problems we've had with the RNC. They need more input from the state chairman."
Asked about the rumors regarding Thompson and Yob, Villere's interest was clearly piqued. "For me that's very intriguing. You'd have somebody with committee experience -- Chuck's been with us more than 20 years. He's gone around the country and reached out to us. Then you have somebody who's like Fred Thompson who's a good spokesman, and he does a great job on TV."
He hasn't talked to Thompson personally, but thinks it would be a very "interesting" arrangement. The fact that a southern Republican chairman like Villere seemed so enthusiastic about such a prospect is informative, particularly considering that this is Katon Dawson's backyard. This doesn't necessarily speak to a lack of support for Dawson, but it does show that he doesn't have it in the bag.
UPDATE 2 (2:29):
Saul Anuzis's website announcing his bid for campaign chair is here. Leveraging the Internet, ESPECIALLY web 2.0 apps is a step in the right direction. This is a defining area for the RNC chair, because it reflects the attention to lessons learned from Obama. Other potential candidates would be wise to follow his lead. Though Thompson is arguably the first one to do it (if he actually announces his bid) -- he announced his presidential campaign on the web.
UPDATE 3 (2:55):
I've obtained a copy of an invitation to a meeting hosted by Dawson in South Carolina. Needless to say, despite having not properly announced his candidacy, he certainly is lining up the ducks.