The 2009 Republican National Committee chairmanship election started out as a six-way race, and ended on the sixth ballot with Michael Steele becoming the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. The Washington Times called it the "'Dirtiest ever' race for RNC chairman."
On November 11, 2008, Jeff Burton launched a political draft website to encourage Steele to run for Republican National Committee Chairman. The website allowed visitors to sign a draft petition, and received over 6,000 signatures.
Katon Dawson announced his official bid on November 24, 2008. Dawson was one of two candidates to earn votes on each of the six votes taken; he lost the final ballot to winner Michael Steele, 91-77.
On November 24, 2008 Steele launched his own campaign website, and confirmed his intention to run on Hannity and Colmes. Steele, seen as an early frontrunner, rejected the idea that the color of his skin had anything to do with his chances at becoming RNC chair, saying, "I am a Republican who happens to be African-American."
Chip Saltsman was the first candidate to release a specific plan regarding the future of the party, which can be viewed at Our Plan for Republican Victory. In his bid for the RNC Chairmanship, Saltsman had been endorsed by: former Republican presidential candidate Governor Mike Huckabee, former United States Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, and Tennessee House Majority Leader Jason Mumpower.
USA Today reported that, "half of the candidates to lead the Republican National Committee (RNC) are Southerners: current Chairman Mike Duncan of Kentucky, South Carolina Chairman Katon Dawson and former Tennessee chairman Chip Saltsman. Former Ohio secretary of State Ken Blackwell and former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele are black. Saul Anuzis, the Michigan GOP chairman, is a Harley-Davidson rider, an ex-union member and the son of an autoworker.
"Barack the Magic Negro" controversy
For Christmas 2008, Chip Saltsman sent members of the Republican National Committee a music CD of 41 songs that included one entitled "Barack the Magic Negro" set to the tune of "Puff, the Magic Dragon". The origin of the song was the title a Los Angeles Times column, written by David Ehrenstein in March 2007 that criticized the reception that Obama, a long shot candidate at the time, was getting in white America; Ehrenstein described the image of Obama in white America as that of a Magical Negro, a stereotypical gentle black man who helps white people, often used in movies created by white people. Rush Limbaugh commented on the column the day it published, and interpreted it as criticizing Obama himself, called the column an example of "the racism of the left," and sang the words, "Barack the Magic Negro", to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon." Shortly after that Paul Shanklin recorded a song about Barack the Magic Negro set to that same tune, which Limbaugh played numerous times throughout the 2008 presidential election season. This is the song that Saltsman included on his CD. Saltsman's campaign imploded as a result of the controversy caused by the CD, and he withdrew from the race.
|Candidate||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6|
- Candidate won that round of voting
- Candidate withdrew
- Candidate won RNC Chairmanship
After the third round of balloting Duncan dropped out of contention without endorsing a candidate. Ken Blackwell, the only other African-American candidate, dropped out after the fourth ballot and endorsed Steele, though Blackwell had been the most socially conservative of the candidates and Steele had been accused of not being "sufficiently conservative." Steele picked up Blackwell's votes. After the fifth round, Steele held a ten-vote lead over Katon Dawson, with 79 votes, and Saul Anuzis dropped out.
The sixth round
The final push that led to Steele's win was from the eight voters from the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands, who switched to Steele after Anuzis dropped out. Steele won the chairmanship of the RNC in the sixth round, with 91 votes to Dawson's 77.
- Kleefeld, Eric (January 29, 2009). "Saltsman Drops out of RNC Race". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
- "Michael Steele elected RNC chairman". USA Today. January 30, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
- "'Dirtiest ever' race for RNC chairman". Washington Times. January 29, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
- Isenstadt, Alex (November 11, 2008). "Draft Steele group launches". Politicker.com. Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
- "Support Michael Steele for RNC Chairman". draftmichaelsteele.com. Archived from the original on March 25, 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
- Mark Murray. Dawson officially enters RNC race , MSNBC, November 24, 2008
- Burns, Alexander. Steele: 'How do you like me now?' Archived February 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Politico, January 30, 2009
- Reiter, Daniel. "Steele Website Goes Live". Politicker.com. Archived from the original on January 26, 2009.
- "Michael Steele Announces Candidacy for RNC Chair" (video – YouTube posting by SteeleForChairman on November 14, 2009). Hannity and Colmes. Fox News. November 13, 2008.
- Cillizza, Chris (December 11, 2008). "RNC Field Sorts Itself Out". The Washington Post. The Fix. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
- Stephey, M.J. (February 2, 2009). "New RNC Chairman: Michael Steele". Time. Archived from the original on February 5, 2009. Retrieved February 20, 2009.
- "Memo – Chip Saltsman for RNC Chair". Chipsaltsman.com. Archived from the original on November 17, 2010. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
- Huckabee, Governor Mike, "Chip Saltsman for RNC Chair", Huck PAC, December 8, 2008.
- Brooks, Jennifer and Theo Emery, "Saltsman acts to become national GOP chairman", The Tennessean, December 9, 2008.
- Lawrence, Jill (January 5, 2009). "Six-way race for GOP chairman heats up". USA Today. Retrieved January 16, 2011.
- Ehrenstein, David, "Obama the 'Magic Negro' ", The Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2007. Quote: Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him"
- Rush Limbaugh Show Transcript. March 19, 2007 Liberal Calls Obama "Magic Negro"
- Rush Limbaugh recording via Media Matters. March 20, 2007 Latching onto L.A. Times op-ed, Limbaugh sings "Barack, The Magic Negro" Song is at 11:30
- DeParle, Jason (December 28, 2008). "G.O.P. Receives Obama Parody to Mixed Reviews". The New York Times.
- Sinderbrand, Rebecca, "RNC chairman candidate defends 'Barack the Magic Negro' song", CNN, December 26, 2008.
- Barr, Andy (December 30, 2008). "'Magic Negro' flap might help Saltsman". www.politico.com. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Nagourney, Adam (January 29, 2009). "Candidate Linked to Obama Parody Song Leaves Race for G.O.P. Chairman". The New York Times.
- Kleinheider (January 29, 2009). "Chip Saltsman Withdraws From RNC Chairman's Race". NashvillePost.com. Archived from the original on September 19, 2009.
- CQ Politics (January 30, 2009). "Republican Choose Michael Steele as Party Chairman". Archived from the original on February 3, 2009.
- PollPundit.com (January 30, 2009). "RNC Chairman Vote: Live Coverage". Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
- Armbinder, Mark (January 30, 2009). "RNC Chairman Duncan Drops Re-Election Bid". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
- Cillizza, Chris (January 30, 2009). "Steele Elected RNC Chair". Washington Post.
- Hamby, Peter (January 30, 2009). "Steele wins contentious RNC race". CNN Political Ticker. Archived from the original on February 4, 2009. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
- Reid Hill (February 9, 2009). "RNC race came down to island territories". The Hill.
- Burns, Alexander (January 30, 2009). "It's Steele!". The Politico. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009. Retrieved January 30, 2009.