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Source: GOP convo offer mulled as inducement for Steele to leave

Updated

Advisers to Republican National Chairman Michael Steele hatched a plan to give him a prominent position at the party's 2012 presidential nominating convention if he decided to step aside as head of the Republican National Committee, according to a party official.

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The official's story, which could not be independently confirmed, involved Steele's chief of staff, Michael Leavitt, and longtime consultant, Blaise Hazelwood. Concerned that Steele could not be assured of a winning another two-year term when the RNC meets in January, the duo came up with a fallback plan.

They would support Wisconsin Republican chairman Reince Priebus, a Steele loyalist, for the top party post if Steele chose not to run again. In exchange, Priebus would agree to make Steele chairman of the convention.

Priebus has gone to ground after the New York Times published a report this week that he had warned Steele he should consider stepping aside because he might find it tough to win reelection. Priebus, who is also the RNC general counsel, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Priebus is "now playing Hamlet," said the RNC source, adding that the Wisconsin chairman backed away from running after Steele "screamed" at him in a phone call last weekend.

Steele is expected to seek another two years in the job but has not announced his candidacy.

Presiding over the national convention in Tampa will be the highlight of the next chairman's tenure, and it's not at all clear how a deal to give Steele a high-profile convention post would work. It would presumably have to be arranged well before the RNC chooses a new leadership team, including a national chairman, in mid-January.

Another RNC source, who is close to party forces seeking to oust Steele but not actively involved in the behind-the-scenes effort, said that regardless of Steele's convention title, a professional manager would run the event.

Anti-Steele forces claim they are gathering momentum in efforts to block the former Maryland lieutenant governor. But they have yet to coalesce behind a single candidate.

A Republican Governors Association meeting next week in San Diego, the first major post-election gathering of party politicians, could be the vehicle for one or more Steele challengers to surface.

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