Steele Stands Firm Ahead of RNC Meeting

The Republican National Committee (RNC) gathers in Kansas City, Mo., this week to approve Tampa for the 2012 convention. Also up for a rubber stamp - a February 2012 primary calendar - featuring Iowa, then New Hampshire, then Nevada and South Carolina, followed by states with proportionally allotted delegates, followed by winner-take-all contests.

But that's not what's going to be on everybody's mind....

Republican grey beards had hoped, even assumed, that at NEXT year's annual winter meeting of the Republican National Committee, embattled Chairman Michael Steele would proclaim vindication (with the GOP's 2010 midterms victories & ‘09 wins that got things rolling) then with many ruffles and flourishes, announce his retirement.

They expected that just at the moment that 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls charged into Des Moines and Nashua, the GOP's first ever African American Party Boss would turn over the reins to a new team ready to reclaim the White House from Obamania.

Turns out Steele may have another plan.

Word last week in Washington that former one-term Minnesota Republican U.S. Senator Norm Coleman is seriously eyeing a run for RNC chair, does not sit well with Steele.

The Chairman says he's staying. Coleman has been working closely with GOP heavy weights Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove on several projects and organizations designed to help Republicans with fundraising, organizing, polling, research, and advertising.

Yes, that is what the RNC does, but these groups (American Crossroads, the American Action Forum, American Action Network, Resurgent Republic and the Republican State Leadership Committee) and their counterparts on the left, are structured under the tax code in ways that allow them to receive donations that the national parties may not. In other words MORE cash for everyone.

Anyway, Coleman's ambitions smoked-out Steele's re-election hopes, right before this week's summer RNC meeting in Kansas City (originally scheduled to be in Detroit , Steele changed it).

So, now the 165 members of the Republican National Committee will probably have another bitterly contested race for chairman next year. But for Steele, the campaign begins now.

Steele has a big speech planned for Friday to the committee. It was originally to be his last big base-rallying broadside at Obama and Democrats before the midterms, now whether he likes it or not, or mentions it or not, it will nonetheless, be taken to some, in part as a re-election speech.

Critics will accuse Steele of selfishly taking his eye of the midterm ball to think about his own job. But he did not raise the issue, Coleman did (at a clever time too).

Critics will accuse Steele of an embarrassingly long bill of particulars including: lavish overspending, inadequate fundraising, countless verbal gaffes, questionable accounting, and generally generating more bad press than good. But Steele does have a story to tell.

On spending: the RNC budget this year is $107 million, that's actually down from $114 million in 2006, the cycle before Steele took office.

In the last 18 months, the RNC has given $2 million to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $2 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee, helping each get out of debt.

The RNC spent $9 million to help Bob McDonnell win in Virginia, $3 million to help Chris Christie in New Jersey, and another $4 million to other state parties. The total is nearly $20 million...in all of 2005 the grand total was less than $4 million.

The matchup against the Democratic National Committee is interesting too.

As of June 30th the RNC had raised $140 million, spent $144 million, had about $11 million cash on hand and owed about $2 million. The DNC raised $138 million, spent $132, and also had $11 million on hand and about $2million in debt.

When one considers that the Tea Party, and groups like those run by Rove, Gillespie, and Coleman are also competing for GOP donations, does Steele actually look ok?

If...if...Steele does decide to run in January for re-election (and stays in the race until the RNC winter meeting and vote), it will surely be another typically cut throat RNC election.

It took Steele six ballots to best four rivals last time..next round could be way tougher.