Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele stunned the political world during a conference call earlier this week when he announced he would seek a second term as party chair. Most assumed his low-key request for a call with committee members signaled his intention to subtly retract his name from consideration following what has been a tumultuous reign. But Steele, ever the enigma, declared he would not go quietly into the good night. Although he admitted that “mistakes had been made,” he insisted he was the man to continue to lead the party.
Most Republican political insiders strongly disagree. Steele’s tragic mismanagement of the RNC’s finances, many contend, cost the Republicans even further gains in the 2010 midterm elections. The now-infamous Voyeur nightclub incident in Los Angeles proved donor maintenance (and professional judgment) not to be Steele’s strong suit. The blistering four-page memo publicly issued by Steele’s former political director at the committee, Gentry Collins (Collins has declared himself a candidate for the RNC chair position), accused the chairman of nothing short of professional negligence. Finally, Reince Priebus, the man who personally ran Steele’s campaign for RNC chair a little over a year ago, is now the front-runner to succeed his former boss.
None of these are positive signs for Steele — the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland who narrowly lost a U.S. Senate bid to Ben Cardin. All of which begs the question — why is Steele seeking another term in the face of almost certain defeat? Perhaps he knows something we all don’t, or perhaps he simply enjoys public ridicule from members of his own party. Many key Republican activists — included noted attorney David Norcross, often referred to as the “dean of the Republican activists” — have come out publicly against a second term for Steele.
I’m sure Steele is a fine man with good intentions who could help the party and candidates in other ways. It is clear, however, that chairman of the RNC is not the right position for his talents.
We’ve all heard the old adage that warns: “when you’re in a hole, stop digging.” Unfortunately, Steele appears to interpret the latter phrase of that maxim as “the hole isn’t deep enough yet.”
Cameron Lynch is a former aide to three Republican senators and president of The Lynch Group, LLC, a Republican government affairs and political consulting firm.