Report: Norm Coleman set to challenge Steele next year for RNC chair?

Nothing’s certain yet, but he’s “intrigued” by the possibility. Note well: According to a “senior party operative,” the feelers being put out here aren’t from Coleman to prominent Republicans but rather from prominent Republicans to Coleman. I wonder why party apparatchiks would be so eager to line up a new RNC chairman months in advance. Any theories?

After losing his Senate reelection in 2008 by just 312 votes, Coleman became CEO of the American Action Network (AAN), a center-right organization designed to amplify conservative ideas and bolster conservative candidates. The group has recently begun spending considerable cash to air ads meant to help Republican Senate hopefuls in Washington and Florida and, along with other third-party outfits on the right that have sprung up in the last year, is expected to help fill the void left by the RNC’s fundraising struggles.

By virtue of his leadership with the group and his losing bid and high-profile recount against now-Sen. Al Franken, a despised figure on the right, Coleman has extensive national contacts in the GOP fundraising world and could help fill the party’s coffers in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election cycle…

“He understands it’s a fundraising job,” said one senior Republican, who has talked to Coleman about the RNC post. “And he’s got really good contacts in New York.”

Potholes on the road to the chairmanship: Coleman may dig his current job at AAN; the current membership of the RNC may be lukewarm to an “outsider”; and Coleman’s reputation for being a bit of a squish in the Senate may create unhappiness within the committee. Which is not to say, of course, that they’d rather keep Steele, but merely that they might look within their own ranks for an alternative. As for why Coleman might do it, it’d put him back into a media spotlight and position him well to run for Minnesota governor in case there’s an opportunity on the GOP side in 2014. Or am I just trying to talk myself into this idea? Exit question: Is this story really just a way by committee chiefs to ramp up pressure on Steele not to run again? They don’t want to have to vote against the first black chairman, however painful his tenure might have been thus far. If he sees big names like Coleman on the horizon and decides not to run, it’d be much easier.