In 2009, the Republican National Committee spent $9 million on then-Virginia Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bob McDonnell. But during the 2013 cycle in a battle for the same seat, the RNC reportedly only put $3 million behind Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli’s effort.
A report by National Review’s Jonathan Strong cited a Republican source blaming former RNC chair Michael Steele for the lack of participation by the RNC in this cycle for having spent too much in 2009.
On Derek Hunter’s WBAL radio show in Baltimore on Wednesday, Steele responded to that attack and Monday morning quarterbacked yesterday’s election by pointed out some lessons he thought could be learned from the results.
He drew a contrast between the Cuccinelli campaign and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election campaign, pointing out Christie was willing to go into uncomfortable situation to build relationships.
“Chris Christie implemented it brilliantly over his four years as governor, and you see that payoff when you commit yourself, create that access, leverage those opportunities and make the level of investment in people,” Steele said. “And I think when you look at the two campaigns, there were just fits and starts in Virginia with respect to that. And that’s part of the infrastructure to Cuccinelli’s campaign. But it was also the lack of national support rallying behind his effort. That really I think stymied them.”
Hunter noted the discrepancy in spending by the RNC in the 2009 and 2013 Virginia gubernatorial elections. Steele argued that what he did worked in 2009 despite criticisms from within RNC.
“And can you believe these idiots are blaming me for the loss last night because I spent $9 million to get Bob elected in 2009?” Steele replied. “They said, ‘Well, he was never trailing in the polls anyway. It was a frivolous use of money.’ Well, tell that to the McDonnell campaign that was putting together a statewide effort that began not in September, but Bob and his campaign sat down with the RNC back in April of 2009 and talked about how we would open up offices around the state. We would start the branding early. We would do the grassroots development because there was no other race besides New Jersey.”
Steele went on to explain his partnership at the time with the Republican Governors Association and that at the time they invested in New Jersey while he focused his efforts in Virginia. But it appears to be different this time around.
“I don’t know what’s happened to that, but I’ll be damned if these people are going to blame me for last night because of their incompetence and inability to actually leverage an opportunity to win in a state that we have won in before,” Steele said.
Steele added that the current RNC under chairman Reince Priebus has cash on hand and no debt, but building up a war chest isn’t the purpose of a the RNC. It is to win elections.
“The DNC is sitting in debt right now, but guess what?” he said. “They held the presidency, picked up seats in the Senate, and now they’re going for the House. Those kinds of commitments — that word more than anything else really matters in campaigns like the ones that we saw in both New Jersey and Virginia. And it really questions for me what the level of commitment is going to be going into 2014, and I think if I’m a candidate running in a state like Maryland, I’m not going to be relying on too much from the RNC or national leaders because they’re going to look at my state and they’re going to write it off, which is something we did not do in 2009.”