Update: Norm Coleman’s other election

Update: Coleman pulls out of bid to become NRSC chairman

So, what about Norm Coleman’s other race?

The buzz in Washington is that the Minnesota Republican will make a play for the top Senate fundraising seat, one that he could have for at least two years if he also wins his reelection campaign.

Coleman, who narrowly lost the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to Elizabeth Dole in 2004, gets high marks among some Senate aides and Republican operatives for being able to raise money — a key quality for the GOP in coming years if they plan to win back their congressional majorities in 2010.

Coleman’s office did not return calls to comment on his interest in the leadership spot, though spokesman Leroy Coleman told The Hill earlier this week that his boss has been approached about the job, but is focused on his reelection to the Senate.

Coleman leads Democrat Al Franken by only 206 votes, and the two are embroiled in a recount that may not be settled until December. As a result, GOP leadership may punt the NRSC election, which would typically take place during the Senate’s lame duck session next week, until early next year.

So far, John Cornyn is Coleman’s only competition. Cornyn is an up-and-coming member of party and started signaling he’d like the spot earlier this year. The Texas Republican has pledged that he will not campaign for the spot until Coleman’s race is settled, but aides say he has already made unofficial efforts to woo votes in his favor.

Cornyn and Coleman play very different roles within the Republican caucus. Cornyn is known for being a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and a Bush loyalist. Coleman, on the other hand, typically takes a more moderate stance on most issues. According to Congressional Quarterly, Coleman voted with his party 64 percent of the time in 2007, while Cornyn voted with the GOP 98 percent of the time in that same year.

Thankless job, but…
The NRSC chairmanship can be a thankless job, said Don Ritchie, who is a Senate historian. It involves juggling fundraising and recruiting new candidates, and strategizing the best way to win — and keep — seats.

A job well done comes with big pay-offs, he said

“It can be a ticket to move up [in the leadership] if the races go well. There are plenty of opportunities to collect IOUs,” which, in turn, can mean more favors for the chairman’s home state, Ritchie added.

“But if your party loses the majority, there’s a stigma,” he said.

By all accounts, this year has not gone particularly well for the Senate GOP. Republicans have lost three incumbents and three open seats to freshmen Democrats. Meanwhile, three races are still outstanding, including Coleman’s, Ted Stevens’ race in Alaska and Saxby Chambliss’s race in Georgia, which will be decided in a run-off election in December.

Nevertheless, Republicans don’t seem to be punishing current chairman John Ensign of Nevada for the losses; he’s poised to snag another plum leadership spot as Republican Policy Committee chairman.

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