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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 01/ 3/2011

The RNC Chairman's Debate (Part 2)

By Jennifer Rubin

Matters got a little more heated when the candidates were grilled on the party's 72-hour GOTV (get-out-the-vote) effort. Steele (rhetorically) squirmed slightly, defending his own tenure, which was widely criticized for falling down on GOTV programs. He said that rather than run things from the Beltway, the RNC simply gave money to state parties. Priebus leaped at the opening, reminding the audience that GOTV was not fully funded or staffed. Others chimed in, citing their own GOTV experience and efforts. Steele asked to respond, admitting, "We didn't have a lot of volunteers from Washington" but cited 200,000 volunteers around the country. He said he really did "fully fund" GOTV; it's all a myth that he didn't get the job done.

On the potential for voter fraud, again they were all on the same page on the need to protect "voter integrity" and send out "teams of lawyers," as Wagner put it. (This might be the only context in which Republicans sing the praises of attorneys.) Priebus recounted his own efforts in suing the state to ensure the eligibility of voters; Anuzis said he did great work in Michigan. Cino said, "Me too!" ( She sent out a thousand attorneys!)

How are they going to hold the GOP officials accountable? Wagner praised the lame duck Congress for zapping the omnibus spending bill. The other challengers -- no surprise there! -- favored of spending cuts, eliminating earmarks, etc. Steele, oddly, reminded the audience that members of the House and Senate instructed him not "to do policy" and stick to politics. It wasn't clear why he brought up bad memories.

Even a video question from the college Republicans didn't shake up things. Again, they all declared their determination to welcome young people, using technology, etc. Steele said all of us will need to retire, "some sooner than others." Hmm. Well, yes.

On the lightening round, they all wanted closed primaries and a requirement for GOP candidates to return funds if they later turn around to run as independents. All said Sarah Palin can win the general election. How many guns? Ann Wagner topped the group in gun ownership -- with 16! Their heroes, aside from Ronald Reagan? Finally some differences: Cino cited Margaret Thatcher, Wagner chose John Ashcroft, Steele took Frederick Douglass, Priebus cited Abraham Lincoln. Their favorite book? Steele said, "War and Peace...the best of times and the worst of times." (Uh, wrong book.) Wagner chose the Bush memoirs. Priebus cited the Reagan Diaries.They all, no shocker, said they get their news from the Internet.

In the follow up, Steele was asked if he claimed opposition was due to racism. He denied he did. He claimed his record speaks for itself -- "We won." A slight murmur went through the room. It's the causation that is missing in that equation.

In the closing arguments the challengers all stressed their determination to work hard and focus on nuts and bolts. Steele thanked the committee for the past two years and said if they want more of the same they should vote for him. They all got polite applause.

It is hard to see how any Republican National Committee member after this debate would conclude that, by gosh, Steele's the only man for the job. However, it is equally the case that none of the challengers made much headway in distinguishing him or herself from the others. As in the past, the real politicking will be done quietly far from the C-SPAN cameras.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 3, 2011; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  RNC  
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"All said Sarah Palin can win the general election."

Sounds more like a meeting of the old Politburo than the RNC.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 3, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Steele knows how to rock the party! None of the other canidates matched his pizzaz! He won this debate hands down. He will be elected for another term as head of the RNC, no question

Posted by: mddg7771 | January 3, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm confused. Isn't the RNC Chairman's job suppose to be about winning seats. They won so what's the problem?

Posted by: rlj1 | January 3, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Where is it written a man can't toot his own horn. Obama did it for two years and look where we are now. Who tooted the least and won this last election. Steele did. In spite of all the tooting Obama and the Democrats did, they lost. Of all of the criticism Steele has gotten, the Republicans won. How do you explain that. The win for the Republicans goes hand in hand with Steele. Their not separate.

Posted by: houstonian | January 3, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Priebus works for a law firm that states Obamacare IS constitutional and works with companies to implement the new healthcare laws.

Posted by: angie12106 | January 3, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Rubin must be a Dana Milstank understudy; rambling, all over the place and trying too hard to be funny..

Posted by: SirLoinofBeef | January 3, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

The crazy thing is the republicans did well under his watch. So, what does the GOP want to do? Tar and feather him. Why? Could it

Posted by: pdurand | January 3, 2011 7:15 PM | Report abuse

More about the Palin thing:

"The two latest doubters are columnist George Will and the RedState blogger Erick Erickson. They take two different routes to the same conclusion. Here's Erickson in a blog post today endorsing Rep. Mike Pence for 2012:

But right now I am not excited by or inspired by any of [the potential nominees] save Sarah Palin and, as much as I love Sarah Palin, I am adamantly convinced that she cannot win given the ridiculous smears and hate thrown her way by Democrats and, frankly, by a lot of Republicans. She has been made radioactive.

And here's Will on ABC's This Week on Sunday:

The president's secret weapon may be the Republican nominating electorate, because there is one person, high in the polls, Sarah Palin, who cannot be elected president because she cannot compete where elections are decided -- in the collar counties outside Chicago, Montgomery County outside of Philadelphia -- just can't compete there.

In a post-show interview, Will amped up the criticism:

She had to go back and be a successful governor of Alaska, and she had to do her homework. She's done neither. The hope is that perhaps she's making so much money -- and she's a very astute businesswoman -- that she won't want to take the pay-cut to become a mere presidential candidate."

Jennifer, I know you feel the same about her, in a closet sort of way. When are YOU going to write your Palin can't win column?

Posted by: 54465446 | January 3, 2011 10:22 PM | Report abuse

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