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November 13, 2006
An Underwhelming Choice For RNC

The Republican National Committee selected its new chairman to replace Ken Mehlman. Instead of Michael Steele, who made his interest clear, the GOP selected Senator Mel Martinez -- a choice that has underwhelmed conservatives:

Sen. Mel Martinez, the first-term lawmaker who previously served in President Bush's Cabinet, will assume the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, GOP officials said Monday.

Martinez, 60, will replace current chairman Ken Mehlman, who will leave the post in January at the end of his two-year term, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement.

Martinez will remain in the Senate. Mike Duncan, the RNC's current general counsel and a former party treasurer, will run the day-to-day operations at the party's Capitol Hill headquarters.

Martinez was tapped in 2001 as President Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He resigned in 2003 to run for the open Senate seat created when incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Graham decided not to seek another term. Martinez was elected with 49 percent of the vote _ a slim margin that was credited to Bush's win in that state.

Mel Martinez? Well, since the Republicans are in the minority, I suppose the extra work won't interfere with his legislative duties, but it's hardly an inspiring choice for conservatives. Martinez himself has an exceptionally inspiring biography, of course; he fled Castro's Cuba at 15, without his family, who followed four years later. He taught himself English and put himself through college and law school. He served as a county party chair for three years and helped deliver Florida -- barely -- for George Bush. After that, Bush tapped him to run HUD, and he won his current seat in 2004.

Conservatives have problems with Martinez over his moderate position on immigration most of all. Martinez supported the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive reform plan, as did Bush. For those who see that as a major problem in energizing the base, choosing him as RNC chair seems like putting out a fire with gasoline. Even his decision to remain in the Senate irritates them, because a resignation would allow Jeb Bush or Charlie Crist to nominate a replacement, one more inclined to champion the conservative cause on immigration.

This makes Steele more likely to get an offer to join the Bush Cabinet, perhaps in Martinez' old job at HUD. It still seems like a bad choice for Steele, who might want to keep his options open in Maryland instead. Spending two years in a lame-duck Cabinet hardly seems to be a career-builder, especially at HUD.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 13, 2006 9:13 PM

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» Michael Steele The Darling from Good Richard's Almanac
Hot Air's got a poll up asking who the RNC chairman should be. Click here to view the results. With such strong support for Michael Steele, why would the Republican party choose a sitting Senator as chairman? Or am I... [Read More]

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» Mel Martinez to replace Ken Mehlman as RNC chairman from Bill's Bites
Mel Martinez, RNC chair...Sigh...Michelle Malkin Oh, well. Michael Steele has been passed up for Sen. Mel Martinez. Yes, a squish on border security is now the RNC chair. Has the GOP learned anything? Here's a reminder of the Center for [Read More]

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» OOPS THEY DID IT AGAIN from Texas Hold 'Em Blogger
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Tracked on November 13, 2006 11:13 PM

» The Republicans Pick A New RNC Chairman from The Moderate Voice
And Ed Morrissey (whose conservative blog understandably gets many readers of all political persuasions) says it's an "underwhelming choice."
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Tracked on November 14, 2006 1:43 AM

» The Republicans Pick A New RNC Chairman from The Moderate Voice
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