GINGRICH AT RNC CHAIR?…. The Republican Party has a leadership problem, which makes the ongoing, behind-the-scenes fight to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee all the more contentious.

Chris Cillizza reported yesterday that a leading contender is, believe it or not, Newt Gingrich, who is “being looked to by some within the GOP to (again) lead the party out of the wilderness.” Cillizza added that the chairmanship of the RNC “would be a nice launching pad” for a presidential campaign in 2012. (I have no idea why and Cillizza didn’t explain the point.)

The far-right Washington Times, which has pretty solid sources in the Republican Party, reports today that there’s a genuine battle underway for control of the RNC between Gingrich and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls.

A bevy of backers for each man, neither of whom is an RNC member, say the committee needs a leader who can formulate a counter-agenda to President-elect Barack Obama’s administration and articulate it on the national stage.

“The Republican National Committee has to ask itself if it wants someone who has successfully led a revolution,” Randy Evans, Gingrich confidant and personal attorney based in Atlanta, told The Washington Times on Monday. “If it does, Newt’s the one.”

Gingrich is the one what?

I have to admit, I’m amazed at how short Republicans’ memories are. We’re talking about a failed former Speaker who made his mark more than a decade ago, before becoming widely loathed by the electorate, and ultimately forced from office by his own Republican colleagues. Gingrich, as Speaker, shut down the government (twice), he pursued presidential impeachment over an adulterous affair (while carrying on an affair of his own), and offered up such visionary ideas as barring women from combat roles because “males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes.”

Worse, in 1994, after Susan Smith drowned her two young sons, Gingrich, just three days before the midterm elections, equated her crime with the values of the Democratic Party. In 1999, shortly after the Columbine massacre, Gingrich argued that American “elites” bear responsibility. After the shootings at Virginia Tech, Gingrich blamed liberals for supporting “situation ethics,” before condemning Halloween costumes and the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law.

Put it this way: Democrats would be thrilled to see Gingrich as the RNC chair. That ought to tell Republicans something.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.