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Three MN voters prefer Priebus, Cino for RNC chair as election looms

The election for RNC chairman is Friday, and Minnesota’s first-choice candidates are publicly known. Not public, however, are their second-favorite candidates, a detail which could prove key given the RNC’s runoff voting rules.

WASHINGTON — There’s an important election Friday, one that could determine the success or failure of the Republican Party in 2012, but one could be forgiven for not knowing it was even going on.

The race is for chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, the group responsible for leading fundraising and organizing efforts for the GOP across the nation. Here in D.C., the lobbying is furious in advance of Friday’s votes, though not necessarily for Minnesota’s three voters.

Minnesota’s three voters, party chairman Tony Sutton and national committemembers Brian Sullivan and Evie Axdahl, have all publicly endorsed their first choice candidates. Sutton and Sullivan are backing Wisconsin state party chairman Reince Priebus, while Axdahl is supporting Maria Cino, a former Bush administration official familiar to the Gopher State as she ran the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, and the purported favored choice of House Speaker John Boehner. Also in the race: Incumbent Michael Steele, former Michigan state party chairman Saul Anuzis and former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner.

With two voters from the state backing him, Minnesota could actually serve as one of Priebus’ three nominating states. Candidates must receive a majority backing (at least 2 of 3 voters) from three different states to have their names placed on the ballot.

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Qualifying for ballot status so far are Priebus (nine states), Wagner (three) and Cino (three). Anuzis has two, but he told National Journal’s The Hotline that he’ll have a third state lined up in time. Incumbent Michael Steele also has two states lined up and is in need of a third.

So far, Priebus has to be considered the favorite. With 38 publicly-committed supporters, he’s got more than twice as many as the number two candidate, Steele. However, my guess is that unless Steele has a treasure trove of support tucked away somewhere, he’s probably not in the running (if only for the simple fact that 84 percent of the RNC members who have stated a preference so far want someone other than Steele, the guy who’s got the job now).

But the RNC chairman’s election isn’t so simple as who has the most votes in round one. In a system very much like World Cup or Olympics voting (minus the fraud allegations), if no one gets a majority, the lowest-ranked candidate is eliminated and everyone votes again. That continues until someone wins.

So while Minnesota’s three first-choice candidates are publicly known, their as-yet-undeclared second-choice preferences may be even more important deciding the election.