- The Washington Times - Monday, April 12, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Look no further, political junkies, I’ve finally figured out why Michael S. Steele isn’t even close to leaving his post as party chairman.

Given the swelling Republican tsunami threatening to wash Democrats from power in less than seven months, Mr. Steele thinks he’s riding high. In short, he’s too big to fail.

With unemployment at Depression-era highs and public angst brewing over President Obama’s disastrous health reform, indeed the time is ripe for the Republican Party to step up its fundraising efforts and move to crush its opponents this November. Yet instead of capitalizing on this rising tide of discontent, the GOP finds itself mired in controversy about lavish spending on everything from limos to private aircraft.

Why would a donor — any donor — entrust his/her funds to a political cause that burns through money like an American International Group futures trader?

Is it fair that the freewheeling spending of some rogue few has affixed itself to Mr. Steeles reputation? Probably not. But as the GOP chairman, he is ultimately responsible for managing headquarters. When the party is consistently failing at its most important function, it suggests that Mr. Steele is failing to maintain internal controls.

Compounding the problem is Mr. Steeles Obama complex. It’s apparent to me he secretly wants to be the Republican Obama. He’s offering hope alright … to the enemy. At a time when Democrats should be licking their wounds and praying for a miracle, Mr. Steele is their new rallying cry. The longer he stays, the more Democrats think they can keep their majorities. To quote my liberal friends, he’s the poster child of what’s wrong with Republicans: They lack inspired leadership and can barely manage themselves, let alone a country.

So will the party can him? Probably not. First, a two-thirds vote from the membership is required to oust the Republican. That means that Mr. Steele has until the Republican Party’s winter meeting in January 2011 to get his act together. Even then, members will be hesitant to vote out their first black party leader. For a group struggling to distance itself from its history of racial insensitivity, canning Mr. Steele could cause a racial imbroglio. At the very least, forcing him out would be a distraction when the party should be capitalizing on the idea that Mr. Obamas massive public spending is bankrupting the country.

I’m not calling for Mr. Steele to resign … yet. Even Democrats don’t want that, but for far different reasons. The truth is, he can’t resign. Not now. In some twisted way, the party needs Michael Steele; if anything, just to bounce back and prove his opponents wrong; that he’s not the village idiot many would have him to be. If past is prologue, that’s asking a lot.

Perhaps the staff shakeup earlier last week was a step in the right direction. Given the absurdity of some of Mr. Steeles public announcements, it couldn’t hurt to bring in some seasoned professionals. But the root problem lies not with Mr. Steeles staff; it is with Mr. Steele himself. Ousting the organization’s chief of staff won’t matter in the grand scheme. He wasn’t running the Republican National Committee in the first place.

I’ve said it before: The quickest way to return to “golden child” status is simply to win, baby. And win big. The chairman silenced his critics immediately following seismic gubernatorial victories in Virginia and New Jersey, up until the time where he nagged reporters for not giving him enough credit.

So the four-step Steele recovery program begins now, and it starts with the following:

1. Go dark. Yes, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Chairman Steele has clearly become a lightning rod for the media and Democrats, no matter how good his talking points. So the party head should just turn off the television and stay away from the cameras. That frees him up for step No. 2.

2. Use his position for good. Remarkably, old guard leaders such as Newt Gingrich see the folly of intraparty fighting this close to November. So Mr. Steele should tap into those last vestiges of support and recruit these luminaries to help him do his most important job; namely, raise money. Irrespective of the power Mr. Steele wields, he still holds authority, and he should use that authority to appeal to every party lieutenant for the good of the entire GOP cause — defeating government run amok. Even though he’s weak, the movement is strong, and Mr. Steele would do well to leverage that.

3. Look down, not up. Similarly, Mr. Steele should appeal to his counterparts at the state and precinct levels, recognizing they have their own goals this close to Election Day. When they’re winning, Mr. Steele’s team is winning, allowing him to bank political capital he desperately needs. This also applies to his predecessors, such as Mike Duncan and Ed Gillespie. They’ve already begun an impressive fundraising drive of their own, principally out of anxiety for Mr. Steele’s missteps. Find a way to fold that effort back into the party apparatus.

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