RNC to Lose Late Night Joke Machine, Michael Steele?

The Republican National Committee chair is expected to announce plans for reelection--or not--Monday

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Is Michael Steele saying goodbye to all that? The Republican National Committee chair will finally reveal whether he's running for a second term via a conference call Monday night. Almost everyone expects the gaffe machine to pack up his toys and go home, though Hotline's Reid Wilson points out that his "actual decision remains a closely guarded secret." Then, too, Steele has often been a man of surprises.

"Republicans reaped heavy publicity in January 2009 when they chose Steele as the party's first African-American chairman, but he has proven to be a poor fundraiser and gaffe-prone messenger," Politico's Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin report. That Steele is making his announcement by a conference call is "an indication that he is unlikely to mount a reelection bid. ... Nevertheless," they continue, in similar fashion to Wilson, "supporters and opponents alike stressed that Steele's plans are unknown."

How could Steele have such an anticlimactic breakup with the Republican Party when he presided over such a massive midterm victory? It's all about the money. And the public embarrassment.

  • An Eventful and Entertaining Chairmanship  "What's the first thing that pops into your head when you think of the tenure of Michael Steele as RNC chairman?" asks New York Magazine's Dan Amira.
Is it the $2,000 the RNC spent at a bondage-themed nightclub? Is it the time he called the war in Afghanistan a 'war of Obama's choosing'? Or the time he called abortion an 'individual choice,' contrary to the beliefs of the vast majority of his party? Or that he charges $20,000 per speech, even though former RNC chairmen typically did speaking appearances for free? Or the time earlier this year when he said the GOP wouldn't win back the House and he wasn't sure whether they were ready to govern? Or is it his repeated use of the race card to explain why he has been criticized for the aforementioned transgressions?
  • Not With a Bang, But a Whimper, Slate's Dave Weigel notes. Steele's decision not to run has "been telegraphed for weeks, as the field to replace Steele has expanded and no one--really, no one--has rushed forward to defend him. ... [T]he best indicator of problems for Steele was the low profile he's kept in December. He has given few interviews. He skipped a FreedomWorks-sponsored candidate forum." In addition, Weigel notes that the RNC appears to be papering over various Steele incidents:
What struck me earlier this month, at the FreedomWorks ... forum, was how little Steele played in to discussions of the future of the RNC. The man wasn't onstage, but no one criticized him by name, and the knocks on his management of the RNC were very matter-of-fact--no burrowing into specific scandals. The impression was of a group of people squinting to pretend something wasn't there.
  • If Steele Drops Out, Do Others Drop In? NBC News' Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg ask. "Right now, here's your field: Michigan committeeman Saul Anuzis, former Bush administration official Maria Cino, Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, former RNC political director Gentry Collins, and former Missouri GOP chair Ann Wagner." They wonder, though: "as some Republicans have pointed out, didn't the 2010 cycle prove that the RNC is irrelevant?"
  • Yes: Norm Coleman, Politico's Mike Allen reports. "Friends say Coleman's big push would be his ability to help the RNC retire its daunting debt: 'I was the best fundraiser of all the Senate candidates.' However, committee insiders say Coleman was hurt by the leaked news that he had promised Steele he wouldn’t run against him, since many in the GOP are agitating for change, not clubbiness."
  • We'll Miss You, Riley Waggaman writes at Wonkette. "Comedy Connoisseurs will certainly be filled with grief if this delightful gaffe heifer were to surrender his Chairmanship to some pasty white guy, who will probably be heinously boring and awful. Four more years (or whatever), please."
  • Steele 'Did a Better Job Than Most People Have Given Him Credit For'  Though Steele made some questionable choices, writes John Hawkins at Right Wing News, he also "cleaned house at the RNC, which was really good for the organization. He helped build an outstanding New Media Department that allowed the RNC to catch up to the Democrats technologically." In addition, "generally stood with the base against the establishment. Also, despite the fact that some people don't like to admit it, the fact that we've had a black man running the RNC for 2 years was very good for the image of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. ... I hope they'll give him a little extra credit for being willing to step aside rather than engage in a divisive fight that might weaken the party going into the 2012 election cycle."
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