WASHINGTON – Sens. Norm Coleman (search) and Elizabeth Dole (search) both claimed Monday they have enough votes from their GOP colleagues to take over leadership of the influential National Republican Senatorial Committee (search).
The dueling assertions came two days before Republican senators and senators-elect vote by secret ballot. The NRSC chairman will be responsible for raising money and recruiting candidates for the party in the 2006 Senate races.
"With the continued support of you and other colleagues who have committed to me, we will be successful," Coleman wrote in a letter to supporters. The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, claimed the Minnesota senator had "at least" 28 votes lined up, or just over half the 55 GOP senators.
Brian Nick, a spokesman for Coleman's North Carolina counterpart, said she "absolutely has more than 28 votes necessary to win."
Dole has a 19-7 edge among senators who have publicly declared support. Her backers, including the current NRSC chairman, Virginia Sen. George Allen (search), signed a letter Friday that was sent to all GOP senators.
"Elizabeth puts a different face on the party -- an image that will help our candidates reach their Republican base, but also reach out to new voters, women and minorities," the letter stated.
Coleman backers have made a similar argument, noting he's a native New Yorker who won election as a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state. His appeal across party lines could help Republicans win Senate battleground states in 2006, they claim.