The GOP Civil War, Part 3.

In he coming weeks, RNC Chairman Mike Duncan is likely to be sacked.  The question is, who will replace him?

A behind-the-scenes battle to take the reins of the Republican National Committee is taking off between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls.

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These struggles come as the party prepares for a broad ideological battle, in particular over how much to emphasize social issues like opposition to abortion rights and gay rights. Party leaders said the focus on those issues had constricted the party’s appeal to moderate and independent voters more interested in jobs, health care, education and other issues that touch their lives in more concrete ways.

“We can’t be obsessed with issues that are not the issues that are important to American voters,” said Jim Greer, the Florida Republican chairman and a likely candidate for national party leader.

So you have Gingrich, Mr. hyperpartisan himself, who was forced to resign in disgrace after the disastrous 1998 elections. Something tells me that, in a time when voters are hungry for chance, a far-right demagogue from 10 years ago isn’t going to attract broad support.

Then you have Steele, who wants to run the national party even though he couldn’t even win a Senate seat in Maryland (even after being described as “the next Barack Obama“).  He has been on the national stage since 2005 but hasn’t really offered any new ideas or policies or anything of the sort that indicate he would be a good leader.

And finally you have Jim Greer who–much like Mike Duncan himself–nobody has heard of and who hasn’t even won a competitive election before. I can’t say he’ll be a bad choice, but usually if you have some good ideas about how to run a party and win elections you put them into practice somewhere, on some level.

The fight over RNC chairman will be bloody, and in the end I’m just not sure that any of the current candidates have what it takes to improve their party’s fortunes.  Gingrich? Steele? After two disastrous elections, is that really the best Republicans can do?

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