RNC Chair Michael Steele is claiming credit for the Republican wave in 2010, but he was just along for the ride — literally. Spending the last months of the campaign season driving around the country in a bus on his magical mystery tour, Steele may have been inhaling the spirit of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, but he sure wasn’t leading the party where it mattered — in fundraising or field operations. The only person who promised more and delivered less in the last two years was Bernie Madoff.
Taking a cue from Joe Miller (think Alaska and we don’t mean Sarah Palin’s Alaska) in an effort to defy skeptics, Steele has decided to fight on and seek re-election with the same tenacity as The Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Can Steele win? Unlikely, but he has been working on maintaining his friendships with committee members from the territories and selected GOP state parties in Democratic strongholds, so it is possible for him to garner the 85 votes needed to secure re-election. We’re more certain that two more years of Steele at the helm would make the Republican National Committee irrelevant in 2012 and beyond thanks to donor fury.
With President Obama capable of raising close to $1 billion for his re-election bid, the GOP will need all hands on deck if it is going to win the White House and the Senate. This means the next RNC chair will have his or her hands full focusing on three items:
Job number one will be to smooth over donor relations in an effort to raise funds for 2012, while simultaneously paying down an ever-growing party debt. It’s a daunting task that would make former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan quiver, and we don’t mean like Chris Matthews.
The second order of business will be to boost state parties in 2012 battleground states (e.g., Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania). Once the Obama tax plan has been approved by Congress, Axelrod and Co. will be mining these states for votes in a P.R. blitz that would make any Hollywood agent jealous. The GOP must prepare for Democratic incursions in these states, and it must start now. 2012 will be all about “Main Street,” Middle America and Florida, and the White House knows it.
The final task will be to organize the most successful get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation in history. In 2010, despite Republican gains across the country, this is where the party most missed the mark — it fell short of converting enthusiasm into voter turnout. The GOP cannot make the same mistake twice, because if it does, it may not only find itself locked out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but it could be bounced out of the House as well.
Leading up to 2012, the RNC needs a new game plan, a renewed energy and a leader who can focus the story without becoming the story.