That said, according to Fred Barnes, Steele's nowhere to be seen this electoral season, "Mr. Steele and the Irrelevant RNC":
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele is the missing person of the midterm election. Instead of cable news appearances and debates with Democratic counterpart Tim Kaine, Mr. Steele has spent the past month leading a "Fire Pelosi" bus tour across the country.RTWT.
His small role in the campaign, highly unusual for a party chairman, is matched by the scaled back effort the RNC has mounted in 2010. And no one is happier than Mr. Steele's many Republican detractors, glad to see he's attracting little attention from the national media.
Since Mr. Steele was elected chairman last year, the RNC has raised almost $153.7 million, roughly $90 million less than in 2006. It has aired only a few TV ads and its get-out-the-vote (GOTV) drive is considerably less ambitious than in previous midterm elections.
Yet Republicans, including Mr. Steele, appear satisfied with the division of labor in the campaign. What the RNC isn't doing, well-financed outside groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Republican Governor's Association (RGA) are. Mr. Steele's bus tour doesn't interfere. Exploiting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's unpopularity, it has drawn largely favorable coverage from local and regional media.
This improvised arrangement is entirely fortuitous. The so-called independent expenditure groups were established to counter campaign spending on behalf of Democrats by liberal groups, particularly the Service Employees International Union, the AFL-CIO and MoveOn.org. They also aimed to offset the fund-raising advantage (now 1.5 to 1) of Democratic candidates.
The need to bail out the RNC arose last year after it quickly ran through $22.8 million and had trouble replenishing its war chest. Reliable donors were turned off by Mr. Steele's overexposure in the media, his insistence on making paid speeches as chairman, and statements that put him at odds with other Republican leaders.
The RNC brought in $9.7 million in September, $4 million short of its goal. This compares with $11.2 million raised last month by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which supports House candidates. And the RGA, led by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, raised $31 million in July, August and September.
Many congressional Republicans and governors no longer trust Mr. Steele as their spokesman. They tend to work around the RNC rather than engage Mr. Steele. He does have supporters, and he has recruited an experienced staff. But his dismissal of Rush Limbaugh on CNN as an "entertainer" and other statements have stirred criticism.
Whoa. That's worse that I though.
Barnes notes that the RNC chair's term is two years, not four. But with the Dems' expected whomping come November, my bet is that Steele successfully deflects critics and hangs on for another two. And that'll mean that the GOP will be retaking the White House without the national party at the center of campaign coordination in the general election. Some political scientists have long argued that the political parties were dead (they've never been the same since the decline of the old big city party machines a century ago). And it turns out that Michael Steele's providing a significant data point toward validating that thesis.
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