RNC Members Reflect on Steele’s Tenure as RNC Chairman

By Fred Lucas | January 14, 2011 | 1:15 PM EST

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele makes his remarks during a Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Oxon Hill, Md., Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

National Harbor, Md. (CNSNews.com) – Members of the Republican National Committee have mixed feelings about the tenure of Chairman Michael Steele, who is in an uphill reelection battle that saw major victories for the Republican party, mixed with spending and debt problems for the national committee.

Former RNC Chairman Michael Duncan, now an RNC member representing Kentucky, is not announcing who he will vote for, but said Steele was unable to maximize the GOP’s major donor base during his tenure.

“As chairman you grab a lot of credit and a lot of blame for things you don’t always deserve,” Duncan told CNSNews.com. “We weren’t able to get as good a turnout as we could have. Most of it is about good campaigns. It takes money to get out the vote. There were more seats we could have won.”

RNC members began voting for the next chairman Friday afternoon, and balloting is expected to go well into the evening.

RNC member John Frey representing Connecticut is a Steele supporter.

“If you look back at 2009, before the tide was obviously in our favor, before we had the boots on the ground, in 2009, we were hanging our heads low as Republicans,” Frey, a state representative, told CNSNews.com. “Michael did a great job reaching out to minorities and reached out to minority candidates. I like the fact that he’s held elective office and is from our part of the country.”

Steele was elected chairman after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, when Democrats increased their majorities in Congress. In 2009, Republicans picked up governor’s seats in Virginia and New Jersey. In early 2010, Republican Scott Brown won the Senate seat of the late liberal Democratic icon Ted Kennedy, and Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in November with 63 new seats and picked up six Senate seats.

But, Steele’s tenure has been filled with gaffes – such as calling Afghanistan Obama’s war and criticizing talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh. The RNC is also $20 million in debt, putting the party in a problematic position going into the 2012 presidential election. The debt and spending problems caused donations to dry up from previous years, causing Steele’s critics to say Republican victories were in spite of him, not because of him.

Virginia RNC member Morton Blackwell, who supports former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, believing he can best keep grassroots conservatives in the fold for the 2012 election.

Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute, was reluctant to give Steele credit for the Republican successes in 2009 and 2010.

“I suppose if he was bad enough, he could have destroyed the opportunity. He didn’t do that,” Blackwell told CNSNews.com. “I didn’t vote for him two years ago on any of the six ballots. But I have refrained from criticizing him for the gaffes and bad appointments. There is no purpose served from that.”