In February, Michael S. Steele’s first month as Republican National Committee chairman, the party’s national governing body raised $5.1 million, a figure party officials said was respectable but not great.
“It means that there’s a lot of work to be done,” Jim Dyke, an adviser to Mr. Steele’s transition team, told The Washington Times.
The Republican National Committee will report that it had in February $24 million in cash on hand, up $1 million from January. Former Chairman Mike Duncan left the RNC with $23 million cash on hand, despite having raised and spent record sums on the November elections.
The $24 million figure does not factor in the $1 million each that Mr. Steele had the RNC give to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee in March. In February 2005, the Democratic National Committee, facing the comparable circumstances of a new chairman and a recent presidential defeat, raised $6.5 million.
“It’s going to take significant resources to elect Republicans this year and next,” said Mr. Dyke. “This is fine, but we have to put a system in place to do better.”
Under Mr. Steele’s aegis, the RNC - which many members have complained has been woefully understaffed since Mr. Steele took over Jan. 30 - has reduced expenses by 40 percent in February compared with January.
Major donors and top Republican fundraisers have expressed concern privately about whether Mr. Steele’s start, which included a publicized quarrel with talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh and remarks calling abortion a “choice,” hurt his credibility with both big givers to the party and the pro-life small donors in the party base.
But Mr. Steele committed himself to reforming the RNC from the bottom up and has been receiving reports from transition committee members he appointed on how to make the organization sleeker, smarter and technologically more hip.
“Steele has been focused on doing this from Day One - creating the organization and systems and resources to win elections,” Mr. Dyke said.
The first test for Mr. Steele is the March 31 election for the 20th Congressional District seat in upstate New York left open by former Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, a pro-gun Democrat picked to fill the U.S. Senate seat that Hillary Rodham Clinton vacated when she became secretary of state.
Mr. Steele has spent considerable time on that contest, to which his committee has contributed $75,000 in coordinated funds, Mr. Dyke said.