Will Steele keep Iowa first in 2012?

If Iowa’s representatives on the Republican National Committee had had their way, Michael Steele would not be the party’s new chairman.  

Iowa RNC Committeeman Steve Scheffler and Committeewoman Kim Lehman both supported South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson, who turned out to be Steele’s toughest rival in yesterday’s voting.  Don’t ask me why Republicans who presumably want to start winning elections again would want the party’s leader to be a southerner who was in an all-white country club when the GOP is looking more like a regional party than ever before and the Democratic president (who happens to be black) is wildly popular.  

Seriously, to hear Dawson explain the roots of his political views, it all started when he got mad that the government desegregated his school when he was 15. Just the guy to give the GOP a more tolerant, inclusive image!

But I digress.

Scheffler and Lehman didn’t quietly prefer a different candidate for RNC chair, they went on record criticizing Steele earlier this month:

Though the pro-life and pro-gun Steele built a conservative record in his home state, the former Maryland lieutenant governor’s one-time affiliation with the Republican Leadership Council, which religious conservatives view as hostile to their agenda, remains a deal breaker in some sectors of the committee.

“That is an organization that created itself for the purpose of eliminating a very important part of the Republican Party and its family values,” said Iowa Committeewoman Kim Lehman, who supports South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson’s campaign. “Michael Steele crossed over a serious line.”

“In that field, the only one that would be my number six out of six choice would be Michael Steele,” said Iowa Committeeman Steve Scheffler, citing Steele’s “past deep involvement with the Republican Leadership Council.”

“They partnered with groups like Planned Parenthood,” said Scheffler, who joined Lehman in endorsing Dawson. “In my view, you don’t lend your name to a group if you don’t agree with them.”

Incidentally, Lehman has a history of intolerance toward Republicans who believe abortion should be legal even in limited circumstances such as rape or incest. The State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa censured her in December for failing to support Republican Congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02).

Iowa’s third RNC member, newly elected state GOP chairman Matt Strawn, endorsed the incumbent RNC chair Mike Duncan earlier this week but apparently backed Dawson over Steele in the later ballots yesterday.

Steele’s election immediately sparked concern among some Iowa politicos that we may lose our first-in-the-nation status when the GOP selects its next presidential nominee. However, Strawn, Scheffler and Lehman had only praise for Steele in their official statements. Strawn said,

“I am excited to work with Chairman Steele to advance our principled agenda, rebuild our party from the grassroots up, and elect Republicans all across Iowa.  I am also encouraged by my conversations with Chairman Steele regarding Iowa’s First in the Nation presidential status. I will work closely with him to ensure Iowa retains its leading role for the 2012 caucus and beyond.”

Side note regarding the RNC leadership contest: I was surprised that former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell turned out not to be a serious contender, despite lining up a long list of endorsements from conservative intellectuals.

With Steele and Blackwell back in the news this month, I’ve really missed Steve Gilliard. He used to write hilarious posts about them in 2006, culminating in the classic rant You Have Shamed Us.