WASHINGTON – An uneasy standoff between two top leaders in the Republican Party has reportedly been averted, but concerns remain over a huge gap in fundraising for House elections next year and a lack of strategy for reclaiming the majority.
According to a report in The Politco Tuesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner has said he will not push for the ouster of senior staff at the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House GOP, after threats from NRCC Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., to quit if his colleages were fired.
To say that the NRCC has been having problems might be an understatement, according to newspaper. Its counterparts at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have $21 million more in the bank, largely because the NRCC was left $10 million in debt from the disastrous 2006 midterm elections.
But the problems reach far beyond that, leading to the tense standoff between Cole and Boehner, who took over the reins as minority leader after the Republicans lost the majority last tear.
After a private meeting Tuesday between the two men, Boehner came out and said that while they have differences on how the NRCC is preparing for the 2008 elections, he is willing to smooth over those differences, and he is reportedly backing off earlier calls for Cole to fire two key NRCC staff — Executive Director Pete Kirkham and Political Director Terry Carmack.
"Cole and I have had a candid conversation every week," Boehner told reporters after the meeting with Cole. "I respect Tom Cole. He's a valued member of this team. My goal is to help us earn back our majority. I've had the same kind of frank and candid conversation about the goals we all need to meet."
Cole apparently affirmed those sentiments and called Boehner a strong ally of the committee.
GOP lawmakers and others quoted for the story indicated that the griping between the two men underscore some series problems at the NRCC, and for Republicans as a whole, going into the next election cycle. Fundraising at the House level is at a snail's pace, and the blame can go to the Republicans own unpopularity among its base as much as it can be placed on poor planning and lack of gumption at the NRCC level.
The Republican Party, aside from withstanding a severe blow in the 2006 elections, is suffering from ongoing corruption scandals, particularly in the House, an unpopular president and low approval ratings among American voters. Most prognosticators say that it is an uphill battle for the GOP to take back the House next year.
This has stunted fundraising efforts, but sources suggest the NRCC is not trying hard enough to tap its base. They point to the fact that that the campaign arm has failed to contact its biggest donors from the previous election cycle, and has failed to replace many of the fundraising telemarketers it fired because of dubious practices.
Others say Cole and his team are doing their best under stressful circumstances and have even helped to drag the NRCC out of debt.
"The majority of members of the Republican Conference have great confidence in both John Boehner and Tom Cole," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. "Tom Cole and the NRCC staff have done a great job digging us out of the debt."