Talk to Republican Party insiders these days and they will tell you that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is in deep trouble. They say there are slew of potential challengers waiting to topple him as head of the party. Problem is, so far only one has stepped up.
Last week, former Michigan Republican Party head Saul Anuzis said that although he considered Steele "a friend and colleague" he was concerned about the party's ability to "provide the financial resources we need to support the organizational efforts and ground games of our state parties" in 2012.
Steele has yet to officially announce he is running for another term as chairman, and while Anuzis was the first contender to publicly challenge him, he may not be the last. A short list of potential chairman hopefuls seems to grow longer by the day.
That list includes Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, former Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner, Connecticut Republican Party head Chris Healy, former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, former North Dakota GOP chairman Gary Emineth, California GOP chief Ron Nehring, former RNC official Maria Cino, former Nevada Gov. Bob List and failed California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, among others.
"There have been almost as many sightings of RNC chairmen candidates as Big Foot, and they're about as real," said one member of the Republican National Committee who requested anonymity to speak openly about internal dynamics of the chairman's race.
The source added: "I'm unconvinced that any name that has been floated so far can win, and I am absolutely convinced that no name floated so far starts with a larger base than the chairman currently has."
But on Monday, several Steele detractors sounded more confident in news reports about their chances to find a viable challenger.
In a recent interview with ABC News, Anuzis acknowledged that perhaps 40-50 of the 168 GOP committee members continue to support Steele, 40-50 are against him and 60-70 are somewhere in between. He said he would be working the phones, sending e-mail pitches and pressing the flesh at this week's Republican Governors Association meeting in San Diego to build support for his candidacy.
Pro-Steele backers like New Mexico RNC committeeman Pat Rogers are beginning to arm themselves for a fight. Rogers said all the talk of potential successors to Steele is "puzzling" after the party's wins at the ballot box in November.
"I look forward to explaining to my fellow delegates why we would be foolish not to re-elect someone with this track record," Rogers said, adding that he had already contacted Steele to volunteer his help.
But party leaders increasingly view Steele as vulnerable and liken the race for GOP chairman to a contest for high school class president. It is an insider's game in which rapidly shifting alliances can make or break a candidate's chances. Two years ago, it took six secret ballots for Steele to win a majority.
In early 2009, when the party was still reeling from stinging electoral defeats, Steele looked to many RNC members like an ideal party spokesman. But he quickly became known as a loose-lipped, gaffe-prone leader whose tenure as chairman included a number of major embarrassments.