Senate Republicans unhappy with the leadership of the Republican National Committee are quietly pushing for change in the wake of Chairman Michael Steele opting to run for a second term.
Congressional Republicans have little influence over the RNC leadership elections. That factor, and a desire to avoid inserting the heavy hand of Washington into a contest mostly decided by 168 RNC committee members in the states, has led many Senate Republicans to keep out of the debate over Steele.
But two key Senate Republicans on Tuesday expressed what many in their Conference have been feeling throughout the chairman’s controversial two-year tenure.
“I’m looking for what the alternatives are,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who raised millions of dollars for conservative Senate candidates last cycle and is flirting with running for president in 2012. “I appreciate his service, but 2012 is real important.”
Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune, who is the fourth-ranking Senate Republican and is actively considering a presidential bid, also suggested during a brief interview that he would like to see a new RNC chairman assume office next year.
The South Dakota lawmaker did not specifically call for Steele’s defeat in the Jan. 14 election, but he said his party’s national committee needs more effective fundraising and strategic management going forward. Steele has endured withering criticism on both fronts from the outset of his taking the job, and even that didn’t come easy since he only won the race after six rounds of balloting eliminated the competition.
“Those of us who are not members of the committee don’t have a vote in this situation. But I think that we obviously have a stake in the outcome,” Thune said. “I think we want to make sure that whoever leads the RNC in the next couple of years is capable of raising the resources that will be necessary to make sure we can run winning campaigns — and I think that’s the issue, probably, that [Steele] will have to answer about.”
A similar Steele critique has been widespread among Republicans at both ends of Capitol Hill, particularly within GOP leadership.
Many Republican political operatives have complained that the GOP’s victories Nov. 2 could have been even greater had Steele done a better job of fundraising and overseeing the RNC’s crucial ground-game activities, rather than parading around the country in a large red bus with the words “Fire Pelosi” emblazoned on the sides.
One Republican involved in a statewide 2010 campaign called Steele an “absolute disaster” who cost the GOP victory in multiple statewide races. “The turnout operation in my state was so amateurish and so underfunded, we never had a shot,” this Republican said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.