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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mel and the RNC: Not done yet




Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., says there’s no set date for when he’ll step down as general chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Despite recent reports that Martinez, 60, plans to step down as soon as the Republicans choose their nominee for president, the senator said Tuesday he won’t leave unless he believes the party is prepared to support that nominee.

“I’m going to stay as long as I need to stay and make sure we’re in good shape for the ’08 cycle,” he told Buzz at the Capitol.

Early 2008 would make sense. Like all RNC officers, Martinez - the Senate's first Cuban-born member - was formally elected in January to a two-year term. But party officials said it was always understood that he would stay only as long it took for the RNC, battered after last year’s losses in Congress, to get prepared to support the presidential nominee, who will be chosen in spring.

Martinez noted Tuesday that the RNC had out-raised its Democratic counterpart handily. There’s no specific plan for him to step down, he said, but “I’m not going to be there forever.”

The RNC chairman, Mike Duncan, runs the day-to-day operations. As general chairman, Martinez’s main job is to raise money and serve as a liaison between the party and its various constituencies, as well as to reach out to potential Hispanic voters.

That’s taken a bit of a hit lately, as Republican senators killed a moderate immigration reform plan that Martinez and Bush favored. Some top Republican candidates for president, meanwhile, have taken a hard-line approach on immigration and have eschewed invites to national Hispanic events and at least one debate.

There's also the matter of his own reelection. Polls show his approval ratings among Florida voters between 30 and 40 percent, and it might not hurt to spend more time at home, and less time working for the national party. He is up for reelection in 2010.

“If I were Mel Martinez, I'd be spending my time building a really intimidating war chest, and that’s hard to do when you’re RNC chair,” said Jennifer Duffy, editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:17am]


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