Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has not appeared on television -- or anywhere in public -- since early November. That's an eternity for the man who has been the most vocal and visible leader of the RNC in recent memory.
Steele's silence is even more deafening considering his own party's historic gains in the midterm elections. While other top Republicans are making the most of their moment in the sun, Steele appears to be flying under the radar.
But the chairman, who has yet to announce whether he will run for re-election, has his reasons.
He and the RNC have been hit with a string of negative stories, including the news that the committee is more than $15 million in debt and is having trouble paying its vendors on time. Critics charge that Steele has been a poor steward of the party's finances and allowed its high-dollar donor program to languish.
And a handful of the critics aren't just talking about what they view as Steele's failings; they are starting campaigns to replace him. Meanwhile, Steele has been out of sight and it's starting to appear less likely that he will seek another term.
If he does, Steele would face a strong bloc of opposition. Three candidates -- one former and one current state Republican Party chair and the committee's ex-general counsel -- have already officially announced their bids for Steele's job and several others, including the RNC's own former political director, are all but in the race.
"I just don't see how he is going to run," said GOP national committeeman Solomon Yue of Oregon, adding that Steele's decision to skip a candidate forum in Washington last week organized by a Tea Party-affiliated group, and the RNC's Conservative Caucus, did not bode well for his re-election prospects.
Yue, an unabashed Steele critic, also said that former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's decision to participate in a closed-door candidate interview with conservative committee members was another hint that Steele might not get into the race.
Coleman has been an ally of Steele's and vowed that he will not seek the chairmanship if Steele decides to run.
As for Steele's own radio silence, a spokesman for the RNC declined to comment on the chairman's activities since Election Day.
In mid-November Steele circulated a memo to members of the committee defending his midterm election efforts, a move that RNC observers said was evidence that he would mount a campaign.
"The RNC has been, and will be, focused on a single goal: building an enduring majority party -- from the grass roots up," Steele wrote. "The 2010 election is the first step, but only the first, towards achieving that goal."
But since then he has only issued a handful of paper statements, and has not made any public appearances. And now his coalition is beginning to unravel.
On Monday another top Republican, who was once considered a Steele ally, Wisconsin GOP chief Reince Priebus, informed the 168 voting members of the RNC that he wants to be chairman. He stepped down from his position as RNC general counsel over the weekend.