The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Would-Be Chairmen Debate


Over on the home page, the full report from the RNC chairman debate, held at the Washington Hilton and sponsored by FreedomWorks and the Conservative Steering Committee.

In today’s Jolt:

Meanwhile, the would-be chairmen got some bad news late in the day. The Post’s Chris Cillizza reports, “In a memo sent to vendors Tuesday, the Republican National Committee’s chief administrative officer acknowledged that the committee is facing a ‘cashflow challenge’ and that many of those who provided political services to it during the 2010 election would not be paid this week as originally planned. ‘We will not be able to pay off the vendors this week,’ wrote RNC Chief Administrative Officer Boyd Rutherford to Derek Flowers, a member of the RNC’s political team, in an email obtained by the Fix. ‘We will be slow in paying as we are having a cashflow challenge. Everyone will be slow paid until after the first of the year.’”

Picture that factoid thrown in the face of every Republican who mentions “fiscal responsibility” for the next two months.

And then Politico dropped the bomb of just how bad the circumstances are: “The committee will pick its next chairman in mid-January at the party’s Winter Meeting. The only thing that does seem certain about the RNC race is that Steele’s grip on the chairmanship is slipping as the party’s financial problems become more apparent. The RNC FEC report Thursday will show over $15 million in debt, [RNC Treasurer Randy] Pullen told POLITICO, and that doesn’t included some invoices that have yet to be paid.”

In no way, shape or form is the following observation meant to downplay or suggest you be anything less than riveted by my coverage of this upcoming race to select the next RNC chairman. But the surprise comeback attempt from Mike Duncan — who chaired the RNC from January 2007 to January 2009 — put into perspective how distant the connection is between the performance of the national committee chairman and the party as a whole in any given cycle. You can love Duncan or hate him, but most folks would concur he was at least a solid fundraiser and a decent manager. Yet Republicans endured an epically miserable cycle during his term. Enter Michael Steele, whose two years at the helm seemed hexed by one gaffe, bit of odd spending, controversy, and headache after another for the entire two years . . . and Republicans enjoy a massive comeback (with a few key disappointments). The performance of the RNC since January 2009 was trashed, six ways to Sunday, by all of the aspiring chairmen at yesterday’s debate. Almost every candidate made some variation of the argument of, ‘if Republicans want to win the White House in 2012 and keep the seats they won in 2010, they will need to have the RNC performing at its best.’ Yet they won 62 seats without the RNC performing at its best. In the end, the key election factors are macro, not micro.

There’s a flip side to this, too. The next RNC chairman could be a Serpentor-like genetic hybrid of Lee Atwater, Mike Deaver, F. Clifton White, and Machiavelli himself and the Republicans could still end up with a lousy cycle.

Tags: Michael Steele , RNC Chair


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