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'We expect Duncan to be the winner'

From NBC's Claire Luke
In a bold show of confidence, the Mike Duncan reelection team all but declared victory in the race for Republican National Committee chairman.

"We expect it to be a very interesting day on Friday, but no matter how many ballots it goes to, we expect Duncan to be the winner," Republican National Committee Co-Chair Jo Ann Davidson told reporters on a conference call this afternoon.

That attitude is not optimistic but realistic, Davidson said. Referencing the RNC chair elections of 1993 and 1997, in which a relatively high number of candidates running resulted in more ballot rounds, Davidson said she believes a similar situation will occur on Friday. (There are five candidates running for chairman this year in addition to Duncan.)

A First Read survey of the RNC's 168 voting members does show Duncan ahead of the other five candidates, with 44 members backing him; yet, this number still falls short of the 85 votes needed to secure a victory.

"The fact that Duncan is among the leaders right now is testimony to how well he's done," said supporter Ron Kaufman, a Massachusetts National Committeeman.

Although various members have expressed a desire for change in the RNC to help attract a wider reach of voters and advance the party forward, Kaufman said that confidence is even more important than change. Being able to run the party wisely, to fundraise and spend wisely, and to prepare the party for 2010 and 2012 are the most important elements, according to Kaufman, of the ideal chairman.

In other words, being able to run the party wisely is more important than change for the sake of change.

Davidson and Kaufman discussed the issue of race in addressing a question regarding the importance of "nuts-and-bolts" issues vs. those including the candidates' race or home state.

While Davidson said the emphasis on the issues vs. race and origin varies between the 168 members, but, speaking from Duncan's team, the perspective is to find someone "who can hit the ground running, who has a record of accomplishment, who knows what's expected of the RNC, and who can operate effectively and get the message out."

"There's been a shift in thinking about what's important," Kaufman said. "I don't care if he's white, green, blue or purple, as long as he'll be a good candidate in 2012."

Another question opened a discussion on policy, from which Kaufman revealed a bit of the chairman's view on President Obama's stimulus plan.

"History says tax cuts work long-term in creating jobs," he said. "We must do the right thing. The risk considered with the stimulus is that we need to stick to ideals -- low spending, low income taxes."

When asked about the rumored power-sharing deals Duncan has conducted, Davidson recognized the rumors but said, "The campaign is not going to get involved in the rumors."

On Monday, Davidson said, per Ben Smith: "Mike Duncan is running for Chairman and will be elected by the members and not through a deal. Whether that takes two ballots, three ballots, four ballots, or more, he will win on the last ballot."