Steele exacerbates GOP infighting
By Ben Pershing
At the end of Monday night's narrow victory by Duke over Butler in the NCAA basketball final, one of the announcers delivered a standard sports cliche -- there were no losers on the court, everyone was a winner. The opposite is true in the ongoing scandal engulfing the Republican National Committee and Michael Steele. At this point, everyone in the party looks bad. No one shining moment awaits the GOP.
The RNC chairman -- whom we are now contractually obligated to call "embattled" -- continues to wobble through one controversy after another after the revelation that the committee had covered a hefty bill at a bondage-themed nightclub in West Hollywood. "The Republican National Committee's chief of staff resigned under pressure Monday, which Chairman Michael S. Steele described as an effort to reassure wavering donors in the wake of a controversy over its most recent expense accounting," the Washington Post reports. Noting that "Steele remains insistent that he isn't going anywhere," the Associated Press writes that McKay's resignation "made him the highest-profile official to depart the central committee after the revelation that the committee had picked up a nearly $2,000 tab at a sex-themed California night club. The incident proved embarrassing and a midlevel staffer was dismissed, a move that was not enough to assuage social conservatives urging a fundraising boycott. In an internal memo Monday, Steele said he and his staff had 'the responsibility to assure our donors, volunteers and voters that it's nothing but our core mission which drives every dollar we spend, every phone call we make, every e-mail we send and every event we organize. Recent events have called that into question. The buck stops with me. That is why I have made this change in management.'"
McKay's allies did not go quietly. Politico reports: "McKay's departure in turn prompted one of RNC Chairman Michael Steele's closest advisers to cut ties to the party - an indication that a full-scale bloodletting is under way at the troubled committee. ... [H]is apparent firing has roiled the close-knit world of GOP operatives and Monday night longtime Republican strategist and Steele adviser Curt Anderson said his consulting firm would no longer be working with the RNC." The Fix writes that "Steele's remaining allies cast McKay's departure -- and the promotion of deputy chief of staff Mike Leavitt -- as a long overdue move that will set the committee on the right path heading into the midterm election this fall. ... But, those allies were in a clear minority among the political professional class, much of which has long disliked/distrusted Steele and saw McKay's ouster as the latest sign of a chairman who seeks to eliminate dissenting opinions. ... What's abundantly clear is that the RNC infrastructure that Steele put into place in the early part of 2009 is no more. In addition to McKay and Anderson, former RNC communications director Jim Dyke is no longer affiliated with the committee and a series of staffers -- including communications director Trevor Francis and press secretary Gail Gitcho -- have also left."
Steele fanned the flames with some fresh comments, the Washington Times reports: "The twin blows to Mr. Steele came Monday, the same day he said in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America' that his race was at least in part the motivation for the virtually unrelenting criticism he has received from fellow Republicans, including some of the most respected former national party leaders. Also Monday, Republicans on his national committee, including a staunch Steele defender, disputed his assertion that he and President Obama suffer from a double standard - a higher performance bar - because they both are black." Under the headline, "Michael Steele Does Not Know How to Quell a Controversy," Dan Amira points out that Steele has made similar comments before and that, "Whether or not you think criticism of Steele has been warranted, there's no doubt that blaming his troubles on racial prejudice will not go over well with Republicans. In fact, at one time, it wouldn't even have gone over well with Michael Steele, who has repeatedly slammed the use of the 'race card.'" Ben Smith notes that while Steele thinks his race makes his job tougher, his Politico colleague "Jonathan Martin made a pretty convincing case a few months ago that, in some sense, the reverse is true within a Republican Party that's almost entirely without prominent African-American officials."
Further complicating matters for Steele is the fact that a group of GOP strategists and former RNC officials is setting up a new 527 group -- American Crossroads -- to help fund Republican campaigns, a job that is normally spearheaded by the party committee. The Los Angeles Times writes: "The principals on Monday stressed that their effort was a means to complement and not subvert the RNC. Individual donors can contribute to both. 'We need the RNC to be a successful entity for Republicans to be successful,' said Jim Dyke, a member of the new group's board of directors. But some people close to the organization said the new group was intended in part to reassure Republican donors that their money would be used to elect candidates, not for perks. Republicans traditionally have avoided setting up these tax-exempt political fundraising groups for fear of yielding control of their candidates' campaign messages to outside organizations. But Dyke said that recently, party leaders had become convinced that such groups were necessary to compete with Democratic fundraising." National Journal reports that so far, the group "has received commitments of almost $30 million and is seeking to raise a total of some $60 million to help dozens of Senate and House incumbents and challengers this fall, say three sources familiar with the new 527. In contrast, at the start of January, the Republican National Committee had only $8.4 million in the bank compared with the $22.8 million it had on had a year earlier when Steele was elected chairman."
When they're not giggling over the opposition's management problems, Democrats are looking ahead. "Save the date: Democrats will gather to renominate President Obama the week of Sept. 3, 2012," USA Today writes, adding: "No word yet on where the convention will be held, but Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has said his city intends to bid. Phoenix is already one of three finalists for the 2012 Republican National Convention, along with Tampa and Salt Lake City. Our colleagues at The Arizona Republic report that former vice president Dan Quayle is among those lobbying to get the GOP to come to Phoenix. By tradition, the party in the White House always hosts its national convention second. So the GOP will go first, probably sometime in August. One scheduling note: The 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London end on Aug. 12." Mark Halperin writes that the conventional wisdom that President Obama is "fundamentally weakened" as a reelection candidate is wrong and that the two most prominent GOP hopefuls -- Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney -- both have their flaws: "The quiet, intense search for a stronger alternative extends far and wide, and includes four subjects of a recent column -- former Florida governor Jeb Bush, incumbent governors Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Mitch Daniels of Indiana, and John Kasich, who is in the midst of his 2010 bid for governor of Ohio. All have thought about running for the White House during their careers, but none have committed to make the 2012 race -- yet. Other possible contenders who attract buzz, including former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, South Dakota Senator John Thune, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, are doing very little to make themselves known, conceive a strategy or raise sufficient funds. The later one starts, the harder it is to put together a winning plan."
Michael Barone looks back at another election year when Democrats were on the ropes, and finds "There are some intriguing similarities between the political situation in 1946 and the political situation today." Gerald Seib says "[t]his year's election will be about health care, of course, and certainly about the economy. But the biggest question hovering over it is a more generic one: Can President Barack Obama rekindle the excitement among his voters that so propelled Democrats in 2008? Right now, Democrats suffer from an intensity deficit that stands as perhaps their single biggest barrier to continued control of Congress after November." Joan Walsh reviews "The Bridge" and concludes: "One thing is clear: It's no accident that Obama beguiled the electorate (and maybe himself) by over-promising his ability to change Washington, end partisan gridlock and 'part the waters,' so to speak. He'd been practicing similar social jujitsu most of his life."
April 6, 2010; 9:58 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
Save & Share: Previous: Obama to join with religious leaders for an Easter prayer breakfast
Next: Fundraising debate keeps Steele in the headlines
Posted by: logcabnnut | April 7, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jdharwell85 | April 7, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dsrobins | April 7, 2010 2:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: ceflynline | April 6, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bgreen2224 | April 6, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: scrivener50 | April 6, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jimsillan | April 6, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Towards_Light | April 6, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: katem1 | April 6, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dcperspective | April 6, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.