From NBC's Chuck Todd, Carrie Dann, and Abby Livingston
Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis watched his state slip from a tossup to a 16-point slam-dunk for Barack Obama, after the McCain campaign dropped its ads there. Some would call him an endangered species -- a Republican in a heavy manufacturing state north of the Mason-Dixon line. He recently predicted in a blog post that "when our party once again adheres to our core values and beliefs, and can again demonstrate to America that we can be trusted on those issues, we will make a comeback – stronger than ever."
And today, he's announcing his intention to try to lead that comeback, becoming the first official candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.
In a party relegated to the South and patches of the Western Plains on November 4th, Anuzis may end up being the only candidate for the post who hails from a northern blue state.
A former tech wizard who Twitters, Facebooks, and blogs on his website "That's Saul, Folks!" the Michigan Republican hopes to run as an ideological and tactical innovator who can bring the Republican Party into the 21st century. He announced his intention to run this afternoon via Twitter, Youtube, and emails to the RNC -- all before a formal release to mainstream media sources.
"The country asked for change," he told First Read this morning before formally announcing his bid as RNC leader, "And that was not just Democrats."
Other than sluggishness on the technological front, Anuzis believes that the Republican Party has suffered because Americans' trust in the brand has all but eroded. "We have to start walking the walk," he said. "When we have members who vote for higher taxes, higher spending, get caught in scandals, we lose our credibility. We have to start having candidates talking about the issues that they have credibility on."
The Michigan GOP chair since 2005, Anuzis hoped to steer the state back into the Republican fold for the first time since 1988. Economically hard-hit Michigan looked to be in play until the McCain campaign abandoned its efforts there in early October. Still, Anuzis says, his blue-state battle scars have readied him for the fight to recreate the Republican Party. "I'm coming from a state that has to fight for every vote in every election," he says. "That's how we are going to rebuild the GOP majority in America."
Among other potential candidates for the RNC post are former Huckabee campaign manager Chip Saltsman, Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, South Carolina GOP leader Katon Dawson, and former presidential candidate Fred Thompson. Current RNC Chairman Mike Duncan also has signaled he may run for re-election in January.
Anuzis is a Reagan follower with an atypical background. He grew up in Detroit as the son of a member of the UAW. While paying his way through college at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, he himself joined a union, the Teamsters. His political interest was sparked in college during the ascension of Ronald Reagan, and in the 1980s, Anuzis went on to help build the modern Republican Party in Michigan.
In the 1990s, he left politics to own Quick Connect USA, a telecommunications firm providing local, long distance, VOIP, Internet, and data services to residential and small businesses throughout Michigan.
Although he is still chairman of the company, he gave up day-to-day operations when he returned to political activism. In 2007, he branched out from the Michigan chairmanship and was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee. He also served on the Committee on Arrangements for the 2008 Republican National Convention.