Republicans Want Michael Steele Out

He's off-message and a bad fundraiser, but the RNC chair doesn't want to leave

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When Nancy Pelosi announced she would try to hold on to the top leadership spot among House Democrats despite their crushing losses in the midterm elections, Michael Steele said, "My breath is taken away." Her deep unpopularity would only help the opposing party. What Steele failed to acknowledge is that many Republican leaders feel the same way about him.

Despite huge victories in the midterm elections, top Republican leaders are eager to see one of their own lose: Steele. Steele has made many mockable comments in the two years he's chaired the Republican National Committee, and, perhaps more important, he has failed to raise tons of money from the party's big donors. As the GOP gears up to challenge Obama in 2012, many--including Mitch McConnell and John Boehner--want Steele replaced with someone who can raise cash and stay on message, The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny report.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has complained that the Republican Governor's Association had to raise and spend extra resources this election to make up for the RNC's lackluster fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts. His nephew, Henry Barbour, heads the Mississippi GOP and is pushing to oust Steele. One potential replacement is Reince Priebus, who chairs the Wisconsin Republican Party and worked to get Steele elected in the first place. Priebus has told Steele that keeping the RNC job will be difficult, but he doesn't want to challenge Steele directly.

  • Barbour's Complaints Are the 'Tip of the Iceberg' Erick Erickson at Red State reports. "I’m told by several people close to multiple 2012 contenders and also some present elected officials that Republican committeemen began receiving phone calls at the end of last week making the case that it is time for a change at the RNC." A potential presidential conender emailed Erickson, saying, "Whoever the nominee is [in 2012] will control the RNC, but until that point someone needs to be there who everyone has confidence in. That person is not there now."
  • No Single Strong Candidate to Replace Him, Chris Cillizza explains at The Fix that even Steele's "most ardent opponents acknowledge that he is held in higher regard by the 168 RNC members than he is by the general GOP political class. ... Estimates of Steele's strength within the committee vary but there is a general consensus that he has between 50 to 60 solid votes. He would need 85 votes to win." Potential challengers include "former Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan, who lost his bid for a second term to Steele in 2009, Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy, California committeeman Ron Nehring,former Nevada governor Robert List," and perhaps former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman.
  • Because the Best Guy Has the Worst Name, the Daily Caller's Jon Ward reports. Ward talked to Katon Dawson, who was Steele's biggest challenger in 2009 and who's called for Steele to be fired. Dawson said, “They’re not going to coalesce behind one person because that one person has not shown up yet. ... That one person has just got the wrong last name and it’s Bush. The one person is Jeb Bush.”
  • Let's Not Forget Tuesday's Victories, BooMan urges at Booman Tribune. "I'm not saying that Michael Steele isn't a clown and a gaffe-machine, but he did just preside over a huge election night victory for the Republican Party. Sure, he had Citizen's United and American Crossroads doing all the heavy lifting, but can't a brother catch a break? There were even two African-Americans elected to Congress as Republicans in the Deep South. Doesn't that count for something?"
  • Secret Weapon: Sarah Palin, Paul West reports at The Balitmore Sun. Many RNC members think Palin will back Steele for a second term, given that Palin appeared with Steele during his "Fire Pelosi" bus tour, and Steele defended Palin from anonymous Republicans who said she shouldn't run for president. Palin would be a valuable asset, but if "Mama Grizzly embraces Steele as her kind of outside-the-Beltway, anti-establishment Republican, the anti-Steele forces are likely to portray it as payback for generous financial help Palin got from the RNC earlier this year. About $250,000 from the party treasury was used to pay her legal bills dating from the 2008 campaign. The story got relatively little attention, but a Palin endorsement in the chairman's race could give it wider currency."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.