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Docile debate disappoints some, heartens others

From NBC's Ali Weinberg
There wasn't much blood drawn during today's debate between candidates for RNC chairman, much to the chagrin of some candidates for the position, and the surprise of some committee members.

"Isn't that a shame?" asked former Missouri GOP chairwoman Ann Wagner when a reporter remarked on the debate's polite tone. Wagner said she would have preferred "some more honest discussion" about how much money Chairman Michael Steele raised during the 2010 election versus how much made its way back to individual states.

She added that she would have liked to have directed a question towards Steele. "It was going to be why of all the money he said he was going to raise, why only 13 million dollars went out to the states for the state victory programs and what he was going to do to correct that going forward," she said.

Former Bush administration official Maria Cino said the rapid-fire section questions at the end of the debate were too fast to permit candidates to wind up with an attack against Steele or any other candidate.

"It was those lightening rods! You only really got 30 seconds!" Cino exclaimed.

There were at least eleven RNC members in attendance at today's debate - among them, Louis Pope, committeeman from Maryland and RNC Budget Committee chairman. Pope, who voted for Steele in 2009 and endorsed him for re-election, said he was surprised at the civility of the debate.

"I thought some of the other candidates would probably criticize Chairman Steele more and actually I didn’t see any criticism whatsoever," Pope said.

California Republican party chairman Ron Nehring, who is running for RNC treasurer and whose vote will thus remain undeclared, said the positive tone of the debate was "what I think people are looking for; where does the committee go over the next two years and who will lead us there."

Virginia Republican National Committeeman Morton Blackwell said that all candidates "performed reasonably well" in the debate. Blackwell, during the six rounds of the 2009 voting period for chairman, first supported Michigan committeeman and current candidate Saul Anuzis, before Anuzis dropped out over lack of votes and Blackwell gave his vote to former South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson over Steele.

Blackwell said he has not changed his preferences this year.

"I intend to support Saul Anuzis and I have not given any serious thought to whom I would vote for if he dropped out, but as long as he is in the race and until he wins I’ll be voting for him. "

Pope, the Maryland committeeman, also hasn't said whom he would support if Steele loses, but wouldn't say if he was ruling anyone out.

"I follow the 11th commandment of Ronald Reagan," Pope said. (Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican).