As the Republican National Committee’s Kansas City summer meeting convenes, no one is exactly sure how Michael Steele will keep his job. While the GOP’s first African American party chair, Steele is also its most embattled and scandal-ridden. One close Black Republican insider speaking on condition of anonymity clearly hoped the former Maryland Lt. Gov. would open doors for others. That’s not the case these days: “Something has got be done about Michael because he’s taking us down with him.” More troubling for Steele is that he can’t seem to get enough of his gaffe giddy self.
But, more problematic are the mounting money troubles, which get more serious as RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen accuses Steele of “obstruction,” reports T.W. Farnam in the Washington Post:
RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen said in a memo to the party’s budget committee that he had discovered unpaid bills for telemarketing, legal consulting and other services. Pullen accused RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele’s chief of staff of hiding invoices and telling staff members to withhold information from Pullen.
How does Steele surmount a gathering storm of insurmountable odds? He figures that outright defiance and nose-thumbing should do the trick, offering unequivocal support for his tenure while giving no sign of resigning. Plus, make enough noise and maybe – just maybe – the race-clumsy White Republicans will leave the Black Republican alone. During a July 8 rally, Steele stumped:
“Every time something happens, people say, ‘He should step down. The reality is that’s not happening, so stop the noise on that. You don’t need the distraction. We’re focused on winning.”
Still, the pressure is on and the sweat glistening bright on Steele’s hairless dome. Former Minnesota Senator and Al Franken nemesis Norm Coleman (R) is being talked up as a challenger to Steele’s bid for re-election, touted more so for his well-proportioned fundraising list than his skills as a legislator. Norm, the good ole’ boys huddle, can make us money.
While Steele, or at least the RNC under his tenure, is losing it. During the months of April and May, the RNC failed to disclose $7 million in debt, far exceeding donations coming in. Despite the premature fanfare of a Republican takeover in November, the fundraising numbers don’t show it.
What can Steele do? If he wants to keep his legacy and name intact, it might serve him well to hold off resigning until after the November elections – one can see the reasoning in that. With more FEC fines looming and too many money scandals brewing, it’s in his best interest to dismiss a second term. However, Steele understands he’s damned if he does, damned if he walks out on the cusp of a major election. He’ll get blamed for leaving the party behind in complete chaos; yet, praised if majorities are won. More than likely, he’s gambling for big (’94 redux) gains in several months so he can portray himself as party savior – the savvy Black chair who engineered it all. If he keeps that rolling with reminders about Virginia, Massachusetts and New Jersey wins under his watch, the affable cat from Maryland will have more to work with than just his signature charm and overused urban slang.
In the meantime, Steele can continue drawing support from New England moderates who see him as their only hope against the imperialistic fringe to ideological right. Regional civil war within RNC ranks could actually pay dividends by postponing Steele’s departure. Still, at the end of the day, that won’t solve Steele’s biggest problem: money.