Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Michael Steele in Trouble

RNC Chairman Michael Steele has a lot riding on the mid-term elections coming up this November. In fact, his political career may rest on achieving near impossible goals. The GOP looks poised to do well and make significant gains in the 37 governors' seats that will be up this November, but more and more, I suspect that only taking back either the House or the Senate will be enough to change his fortunes and neither seems very likely to me (I am among those that believe that the GOP will make net gains of between 15-20 seats in the House and 3-4 in the Senate).

How did it reach this point?

In short, Steele's reign has been a complete disaster. His fundraising has been lackluster (when Steele came on-board, the RNC had $22 million cash on hand, but now has only $9.4 million - meaning that his burn rate is higher than his rate of receipts). He tends to go "off the reservation," message-wise, on a regular basis.

And now, of course, in quick succession, the press was leaked a memo that described RNC donors in terms both offensive and condescending and now donors have learned that, on at least one occasion, their donations were used by staff to pay for "meals" at a West Hollywood club that specializes in performances of simulated lesbian sex.

Michael Steele is up for re-election as chair of the RNC in 2011. Right now, he is saying that will stand for re-election. Anecdotally, Steele is said to remain popular among the rank and file grassroots, but with the establishment donor base already souring on Steele and with the Tea Party-wing taking an ever larger role at the grassroots level, it does not seem likely that anything less than seismic victories at the federal level will be inadequate to keep folks happy.

If Republicans defy the odds and win 40 seats in the House currently held by Democrats, then all will be forgiven. If the GOP does what everyone expects and picks up significantly less, you can expect Steele to claim that flipping the open Wyoming governor's seat from D to R shows that the RNC's efforts have been a success under his tenure. You can also expect the actual voting members of the Republican National Committee to disagree.

(picture courtesy of Keeping It Real with Michael Steele)


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