Rove allegedly leaked his name before any formal decision had been made. Why? Just maybe to head off any grassroots groundswell for Michael Steele among the membership before it got started and assure that their fair-haired boy, Senator Mel, would be in a position of authority to campaign on behalf of the amnesty bill Bush is so hot for.

Or maybe it’s all a lie. Maybe the Times’s source is a Steele supporter who concocted a false allegation of cronyism in a fit of pique.

I know which way I’m betting.

Some RNC members, already dismayed by last week’s election that swept Republicans from control of Congress, expressed anger at the way Mr. Rove leaked his choice of Mr. Martinez immediately after a conference call in which the Florida senator’s name was floated for the first time.

During the call yesterday with RNC members in which Mr. Rove, Mr. Mehlman and White House Political Director Sara Taylor participated, some members raised the names of Mr. Martinez and Mr. Duncan as possible successors to Mr. Mehlman, said an RNC member who was involved.

“But Rove and Mehlman never said they were going to name these people as chairmen, and we never voted or even gave our opinion,” the member said…

The move was seen as a signal that the White House intends to push through Congress the “comprehensive” immigration bill — which Mr. Martinez and Mr. Hagel backed in the Senate — that was blocked by conservative Republicans in the House.

Why not Steele?

While campaigning for the Senate in Maryland, Mr. Steele was an outspoken critic of the Hagel-Martinez measure — which would have created a guest-worker program and allowed most illegal aliens to become citizens — blaming “the partisan gamesmanship of Washington insiders” for the failure to deal with the problem…

Aides to the lieutenant governor confided that Mr. Steele was “furious over his treatment by Bush operatives,” who they said accused him of “not being a team player” because he had spoken to The Washington Times last week after his name was first proposed for the RNC post. Steele aides said White House officials threatened to withhold from Mr. Steele a Cabinet appointment he had been promised in lieu of the RNC chairmanship.

The article says RNC members traditionally rubber-stamp whomever the president taps to head the Committee. If Steele got the word last week that he wasn’t the pick and chose to float his candidacy anyway, then he’s guilty of treachery too. But that’s a venial sin; the mortal sin here is the leadership not only not soliciting the opinions of its base but deliberately running an end around them to make feasible legislation that’s repugnant to the base. If it’s true, if it’s true, it’s a total betrayal.

WashTimes has a companion article out tonight too weighing our chances of blocking the coming amnesty. In the Senate: zero. I mentioned in the Kyl post yesterday that there were only 36 Senators who voted against the immigration bill that passed in June, three of whom were Democrats. What I overlooked was that four of those Senators — Allen, Burns, Santorum, and Talent — are now gone. That leaves the anti-amnesty Republicans fully eight votes short of a filibuster, assuming that the three Democratic holdouts join them. Which is unlikely.

So it all comes down to the House. You’d need all 200+ Republicans plus close to 20 blue dog Democrats. I’m not optimistic.

But then, I never am.

Oh yeah: Kaus says the fence is in trouble now too. I doubt it. Bush would have no choice but to veto a bill that would repeal it, leaving the Dems to scrounge up 16 Republicans for an override. Could they do it? Considering that 48 of the 49 incoming GOP Senators voted in favor of the fence last month (Corker is the lone Republican freshman), I’m guessing no. Which will end up working in their favor when it comes time for the amnesty bill for exactly the reasons Kaus gives — namely, that we’re all easily placated suckers who will gladly eat shinola as long as we get our stupid, symbolic, never-to-be-built fence.