The Corner

Steele Fires Back

In a memo to Republican National Committee members today, Chairman Michael Steele defended his record in the face of mounting criticism, arguing that his two-year tenure has been largely successful in terms of fundraising and voter-turnout operations.

Few would argue that Republicans had bad night on Nov. 2, but former RNC political director Gentry Collins said recently in a four-page resignation letter that Steele hardly deserved the credit — that fiscal mismanagement under Steele’s watch led to missed opportunities in what could have been an even better election year for the GOP. Collins is not alone.

Steele’s memo is quite clearly a response to these accusations, describing RNC fundraising efforts as a “clear, and readily quantifiable, success,” and citing statistics in his defense:

The RNC smashed the record for most money collected in a midterm cycle by any political committee whose party did not control Congress or the White House. Though final totals are pending, the RNC’s receipts already are over $179 million, 37% MORE than the DNC in the 2006 cycle. By comparison, the other party federal committees, who performed spectacularly and ran exceptional operations this cycle, raised approximately 20% less than their Democratic counterparts’ 2006 totals.

The RNC has far exceeded the amount of hard money raised by the RNC in 1994, even after adjusting for inflation.

Well over 1,000,000 donors have given so far this year—far more than the last mid- term election year—with over 220,000 donations in September alone.

Steele also credits his role in driving “the most successful [voter turnout] in history”:

Because of the surge in grass roots support for the GOP, as noted, over 44 million voters turned out to cast ballots for Republican candidates in 2010, as noted, the highest midterm turnout for any party in any midterm election in U.S. history. Approximately 8.5 million more Republican voters went to the polls in 2010 than in the last midterm, a stunning 24% increase and the biggest jump in voter turnout U.S. history for either party. The vast surge of Republican voters was possible only by engaging citizens—largely disaffected conservatives—who had not previously been part of the political process.

The fact that those disaffected conservatives overwhelmingly chose to back Republican candidates was hardly a foregone conclusion. In fact, given the shambles the party was in at the end of 2008, circumstances were ripe for a new party to emerge. Encouraging those millions of disaffected conservative voters to become active Republicans was at the center of the RNC’s turnout strategy.

The numbers are certainly impressive, but there is plenty of room for debate over who can claim credit for the GOP’s performance (Nancy Pelosi has as good a claim as anyone). Steele has been under increasing pressure to step down for the good of the party, but he has given no indication that he’s prepared to do so. At the very least, this memo suggests he certainly hasn’t ruled out running for reelection.

Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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