Thursday, December 07, 2006

Saul, Yob, and Gizzi

Human Events' John Gizzi has a report on the recent political maneuvering in Michigan.

Chuck Yob Sees Wisdom of Saul Anuzis
by John Gizzi
Posted Dec 05, 2006

The dispute that pundits and pols in Michigan forecast would bring three months of internecine warfare over who would run the state Republican Party has ended peacefully. Four days before Thanksgiving, 3rd District Republican Chairman Dave Dishaw called off his bid for state chairmanship. Barring anything unexpected, incumbent Chairman Saul Anuzis should be re-elected at the state Republican convention in February.

The certain Anuzis triumph also signals detente between the chairman--a self-styled "Jack Kemp-Newt Gingrich Republican"--and GOP National Committeeman Chuck Yob, unofficial leader of John McCain's presidential campaign team in the Water Wonderland. (Son John Yob is the full-time head of the Arizonan's political operations in Michigan.) Ever since Anuzis first declared for the party helm last year, Yob has been at odds with him.

Yob attempted to recruit at least two candidates to run for chairman in '05, but both passed on the race and onetime Teamster-turned-Lansing businessman Anuzis was elected without opposition.

Old Michigan political hands say that Yob's feud with Anuzis has less to do with ideology, '08 presidential politics or personality differences than with the fact that Yob once coveted the chairmanship and now just cannot stomach a state chairman he can't control. In 1989, then-Kent County GOP Chairman Yob seriously plotted a challenge to then-State Chairman Spence Abraham (later U.S. senator and secretary of Energy). But when the position of national committeeman opened up before the state convention (incumbent Peter Secchia resigned to become U.S. ambassador to Italy), Yob switched to the far-more-winnable race for the RNC position and was elected.

Even before Election Day last month, there were published reports that Yob was making calls in an attempt to develop a challenge to Anuzis and that out of those calls, the Dishaw insurgency was born.

Not so, insisted Yob. As he told me days before the election, "I have conference calls all the time with other party leaders, including Saul Anuzis. No, I'm not behind any movement to oust him as chairman.

The elections will be his mid-term. Call me Wednesday morning and I'll tell you whether there will be a race for chairman." (Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, also rumored to be part of the "Sink Saul" movement, had sounded very much like Yob when Yob told me in October: "Let's get through this election. Once we determine how we did, we'll know whether there is a race for chairman or not.") But Yob quickly added that he would support friend Dishaw "if he wants to run for chairman." As throughout the country, Republicans were hit hard in Michigan in November. Their nominees for governor and U.S. senator lost badly and Republicans also lost their majority in the state house of representatives. No sooner were the election results counted than Dishaw declared for chairman and launched a website promoting his candidacy. To no one's surprise, Yob signaled he was behind Dishaw.

But Michigan Republicans did not blame Anuzis for their state's version of the debacle experienced by their party nationally. Dick DeVos and Mike Bouchard, the losing GOP nominees for governor and U.S. senator respectively, both weighed in strongly for Anuzis. Secchia, 2002 gubernatorial nominee Dick Posthumus, and Republican leaders in both houses of the legislature also rallied to the chairman. Of the two Republicans in statewide office, State Atty. Gen. Mike Cox threw in with Anuzis and Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land was neutral. (Dishaw is employed by her husband.) Even Birmingham lawyer David Trott, whom Yob unsuccessfully sought to recruit to run for chairman in '05, endorsed Anuzis.

"Saul is one of the hardest-working and most accessible state chairmen I can remember," Peter Secchia told me, in effect speaking for many of the grass-roots activists as to why Anuzis should stay on. After a campaign of less than three weeks, Dishaw telephoned Anuzis to say he was throwing in the towel.

With media attention on Michigan growing because of the state's early-bird Republican presidential primary, questions still abound about how long the calm between Anuzis and Yob will last.

"Had Dave Dishaw wanted to run, I would have supported him," Yob told me, "But he didn't want to go through the bloodshed that would result from an all-out war. Saul Anuzis and I have spoken and will continue to meet. We're going to work as a team."

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