Continued from page 1

Fellow Republicans have criticized him for not having a management team ready to go when he was first elected, but he told The Times he wanted fresh, top-notch talent from outside the Washington Beltway as part of the rejuvenation of the RNC, the GOP’s election-fundraising-governing body.

Several conservative RNC members, however, told The Times there is no move afoot - contrary to reports in the blogosphere and on cable news shows - for the panel to call a special meeting for a no-confidence vote on Mr. Steele’s leadership.

Those rumors have been associated with RNC supporters of South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson, who came closest to defeating Mr. Steele for chairman. It would be virtually impossible to keep secret and anonymous the initiation of a petition for a special no-confidence meeting among 168 members.

Nonetheless, Mr. Steele has his critics on the committee willing to state their opposition only on the condition of anonymity, which leads others on the committee to suspect the motives of such critics.

“I think it’s people who are just jealous or out of work - Steele is doing as well as any of the other chairmen as far was we see,” said businessman Curly Haugland, a conservative North Dakota RNC member who often has gone public with his criticism of the party’s leadership. “I was a Katon Dawson supporter, but I sure support Steele now that he has been elected. I think he’s working hard, frankly.”

Even Mr. Dawson has taken the loyalist view.

“I support Michael Steele,” Mr. Dawson told The Times. “Our committee elected him knowing that he can lead us during this critical time for our party. The people behind this anonymous rumor are clearly intent on dividing the Republican National Committee and our party at a time when we need to be united.”

In recent weeks, Mr. Steele found himself having to apologize to Rush Limbaugh after Mr. Steele was blasted by fellow Republicans for getting into an argument with the hugely popular conservative radio personality over who is the real leader of the GOP and for calling the content of Mr. Limbaugh’s show “ugly” and “divisive.”

While most high-profile groups allied formally or informally with the Republicans elected to hold their fire over the GQ interview, Lou Engle, founder of TheCall, said Mr. Steele’s argument that “abortion is a matter of ‘individual choice’ is extremely disappointing, especially in light of past statements in which he promised to protect and defend human life.”

Mr. Engle said the Steele remarks to GQ “indicate that he may be confused about ‘choice’ and the ‘law.’ The law is supposed to protect human life, not permit the taking of it. And it can never be a ‘choice’ for an individual to take a life. Life is the first right granted in our nation’s Declaration of Independence.”

“The chairman would do well to study that and other documents and recommit himself to the pro-life principles espoused by his party,” Mr. Engle said.

Mr. Limbaugh had said earlier that Mr. Steele would serve himself and his party better by retreating into the anonymity of party fundraising and management.

Two RNC fundraising reports are on the horizon. The RNC raised and dispensed nearly $100 million in the 2007-2008 election cycle to get Republicans elected at the federal and state levels.

Some RNC veterans say if Mr. Steele, who is out to win back the Northeast and West for the GOP, has turned off the party’s base of conservative small donors who normally give $50 or $100 as well as some socially liberal major donors, then the RNC’s financial picture looks gloomy and internal pressure on Mr. Steele to resign for “family” or other reasons may grow.

For now, critics and supporter alike say he has done poorly on what was supposed to be his strong suit - being a pleasing and persuasive public face for the GOP - as well as underlining what critics warned were his long-known vulnerabilities - his tendency toward personal disorganization and disinterest in the art of management.

Story Continues →