GOP to Steele: Shape up or ship out

Republicans are becoming increasingly frustrated with the behavior of the newly elected RNC chair.

Published March 4, 2009 2:55PM (EST)

The biggest potential pitfall for Republican National Chairman Michael Steele was never about politics, it was always about his competence -- or lack thereof. Steele has a less-than-stellar history in politics and business and now, thanks to his brief fracas with Rush Limbaugh, his tenure as head of the RNC isn't looking so great either.

U.S. News & World Report's Paul Bedard says some Republicans are talking about cutting Steele's tenure short -- very short. "What is amazing is that Steele was elected because of his communications skills, and it is those skills that are damaging the Republican Party. Before people begin to completely judge him as worthless, Steele needs to focus and knuckle down on building a strong foundation at RNC so we can begin rebuilding our majority," one "top GOP strategist" told Bedard. "If his implosion continues, RNC members are likely to call a special session to dump him for an effective chairman. There is not much patience for failure."

Another of Bedard's sources, a "senior party advisor," says, "He needs to hire staff for the RNC, get the operations up and running, start raising money, and understand that his role is to win elections. At this point, it is as if he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the job description. An RNC chairman who attacks Republicans and insults conservative icons is about as counterproductive as any Democrat could hope for."

One caveat -- while all this is true, what Bedard doesn't say is whether his sources are people who had backed other candidates for Steele's job; when some of his key supporters start bolting, that's when he really needs to worry.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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