Beg, Borrow, and Steele

Republicans, looking like a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies, chose Michael Steele as their leader to counter Obama in the mistaken belief that Americans had embraced minorities as the next big political fad. With the election of Reince Priebus as RNC Chairman, they were able to rectify that mistake this week.

During Mr. Steele’s tenure as RNC Chairman, Republican Party finances went from a $15 million surplus to a debt of $23 million, while RNC donations for the 2010 elections fell 20% from the amount raised in the 2006 midterm election cycle.

Mr. Steele focused on a strategy of small donations over a wide donor base to bolster Party finances as opposed to focusing on large donors due to an apparent reluctance to court these large donors. Small donations are great and help get more people involved in the election outcome, but they are terribly expensive to engineer, costing some 70 cents for each dollar raised. Steele just wasn’t willing to get involved in calling on large donors to beg for money, so they stopped giving.

When donations dried up and the elections rolled around, Steele resorted to borrowing money for the big push. It is hard to believe that the Republican Party characterized as the “party of the rich” had to resort to borrowing money to be competitive in an election as important as the 2010 midterms. Republican donors diverted their money to Tea Party groups and other grass roots organizations they felt would use the money more wisely.

As RNC Chairman, Steele seemed to be more interested in the glamorous aspects of the job than in the nuts-and-bolts work required to engineer election wins. The small donor strategy allowed Steele to dump the work of fund raising off on others as he busied himself with appearances and Party strategy. Much like Obama, he liked the job but didn’t like the work. He takes credit for success in the 2010 elections that properly belongs to grass root efforts by Tea Party groups that loath the establishment politics represented by Steele at the RNC.

Michael Steele was elected RNC Chairman to counterbalance Barack Obama. As chairman, Steele presided over a collapse in funding receipts, borrowed heavily to make up for the funding loss and keep the party competitive, was prone to gaffes when he went off script, and was more interested in the title than the job. I’d say that the Republicans found the perfect counterpart to Obama.

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