Newt Gingrich and Ed Gillespie stand by RNC Chairman Michael Steele

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
Font Size:

Two top Republicans came out in support of Michael Steele on Tuesday, urging Republicans to focus on defeating Democrats in this fall’s election.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Steele is “capable” of guiding the Republican National Committee through the fall, and said the GOP is “foolish” to focus criticism on Steele rather than Democrats, during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said that Steele’s decision to install Michael Leavitt as chief of staff would be “reassuring to a lot of Republicans,” according to the Hotline.

Numerous senior Republican strategists and RNC insiders said in conversations with The Daily Caller Tuesday that for the moment, the GOP establishment thinks the least problematic option is for Steele to stay. Despite the political downdraft that [intlink id=”761337″ type=”post”]controversy around Steele[/intlink] is creating, most Republicans believe his ouster would be a blow to the party as it readies itself for midterm elections this fall.

If Steele continues to generate negative news coverage, that dynamic may change.

“It has not as of yet reached the tipping point among the members where they will vote him out,” said one RNC member. “However, it has become clear that what ever happens in November is despite Steele and the RNC, not because of him.”

For the RNC to remove Steele, two thirds of the 168 RNC members would have to vote him out. But the political will does not yet appear to be there, GOP insiders said, for a number of reasons. Steele retains support from some corners, and a vote against Steele would also be risky for RNC members, since the chairman controls the organization’s purse strings.

Support from Republican leaders remains conspicuously absent. GOP insiders said that the message delivered to Steele last September by Republican congressional leaders — they asked him not to meddle in policy formation — has not been heard, and that Steele’s lack of communication and outreach to other Republicans has left him isolated when he needs to be backed up.

E-mail Jon Ward and follow him on Twitter