Does the RNC Matter?
None of this is to denigrate or minimize the roles of third party groups and candidate committees themselves, by the way. Those are vital too, and they have obviously gained strength and relevance as the national committees and state parties have become weaker.
But, yes, at the end of the day the RNC matters. And so does its chairman. Which brings me to Mr. Steele.
I supported his first run to chair the RNC. I don't support his second one. I support the professional staff who make up the RNC, but the chairman needs to be replaced.
Michael Steele banked on his star power and promised, among other things, to bring his vaunted communications skills to the job. His record on communications has been atrocious. Gaffe after gaffe after gaffe. Remember that time when Steele agreed when D. L. Hugley said the Republican Party looks like a bunch of Nazis? Or when he said GOP bigwigs were scared of him because he's black? Yeah, me too. That was unhelpful, to say the least, to Republicans up and down the food chain. It's such a joy when you're the state communications director and the local press calls, asking questions designed to make you criticize your party's national chairman. And then the national press calls with eerily similar questions. And even The Daily Show crawls out of the woodwork offering you national attention if you'll step out and hammer your party's chairman. The national chairman should never, ever, put state and local parties in such a position, but Mr. Steele did that as a matter of routine.
Those gaffes don't just hurt him and the RNC. They trickle down to the candidates and, especially, the state parties. Donors even at the state and local level flee whenever the RNC looks like it's in trouble or engaged in stupidity. Steele's tenure has been one of bouncing from one kind of trouble to another, from his gaffes to his organizational failures to his financial failures. In my opinion, Republicans may have left as many as 20 House seats in Democratic hands this cycle just because the RNC spent so much time in so much trouble because of Steele's mistakes and overall lack of organizational ability.
In my opinion, Mr. Steele should have done the graceful thing and bowed out of the upcoming chairman's race. Even though his tenure was less than stellar, he would have gone out a winner, and the party would have probably conducted its next chairman election purely on the merits and abilities of the remaining candidates. But with Steele in the race, it will essentially be a referendum on him. He has already shown a pettiness and a nastiness toward his fellow Republicans during his term; having several strong candidates running against him is likely to bring even more of that counterproductive and divisive behavior out of him. It'll make for entertaining blogging, but it won't help advance the cause.
I don't get a vote in the RNC chair election and I'm not speaking for anyone other than myself. Underline that last sentence -- I'm not speaking for anyone but my own self. But if I did get a vote, I would look at the candidates, find out what I can about each of them, and vote for the one who is a) most likely to fix the RNC's organizational and money problems and b) least likely to shoot off his or her mouth and hurt Republicans everywhere as a result. Several of the known candidates fit those basic criteria, while Steele clearly doesn't.