Iowan Gentry Collins exits race to head RNC

Longtime Iowa political operative Gentry Collins has ended his bid to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, he told RNC members in a January 2 letter. Collins made the news in November by resigning as RNC political director and sending RNC members a devastating critique of current chairman Michael Steele’s leadership. Dropping out of the race to succeed Steele, Collins wrote that

part of his mission in campaigning for chairman was to shed light on the party’s financial condition, which he said, “has been a game-changer for Chairman Steele’s re-election prospects.” […]

“I entered this race to make sure there was a credible alternative to Michael Steele and have said from day one I will not get in the way of electing new leadership at the RNC,” Collins wrote.

Collins continued: “It is after much consideration and thought that I announce my withdrawal from the race for Chairman of the RNC. I believe that there are several qualified candidates in the race for Chairman, each of whom would do a fine job leading the committee through the 2012 Election cycle.”

I figured Collins was a long-shot to take his former boss’s job for various reasons. It didn’t look good for him to establish a committee to support his bid for RNC chairman while he was still working at the committee. Craig Robinson’s critique of Collins’ “ego,” “vengeful style” and “heavy-handed” tactics may have put off some Republican insiders too.

Various “whip counts” published by Washington-based journalists showed Collins with only three firm commitments from voting RNC members, far behind the front-runner, Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus. (That’s pronounced “ryns pree-buhs.”) Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn had publicly backed Collins, but committeeman Steve Scheffler was an early Priebus endorser. Iowa’s committeewoman Kim Lehman is supporting Priebus too; she and Scheffler backed the main alternative to Steele in 2009.

Four previous leaders of the national GOP have been from Iowa. The most recent was pro-choice moderate Mary Louise Smith in the mid-1970s. Smith is still the only woman to have headed the RNC. Two women have entered the race to replace Steele, but a rule requiring the party chair and co-chair to be different genders puts them at a disadvantage.

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