The turmoil surrounding Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is intensifying — after the departure of key RNC staffers and racial comments from Steele himself.
“The chairman of the Republican Party should be able to lead,” Alex Castellanos, an unpaid senior adviser to the committee, charged, according to a report in the New York Times
. "And right now I think he’s lost the confidence and the support of the people he’s leading."
The Times noted: “At a time when the Republican National Committee is looking to take advantage of Democratic troubles and make gains in Congressional elections, Mr. Steele is commanding attention mostly for questionable expenditures by the committee, lagging fund-raising, staff defections and dismissals, an aggressive round of paid speeches and speaking appearances and politically inopportune remarks.”
Some in the GOP are even calling for his ouster.
When asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” whether he thinks he has a smaller margin for error because he is black, Steele said, "The honest answer is yes. … Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do. It's a different role for me to play and others to play, and that's just the reality of it.”
Steele has faced heavy criticism for the RNC’s financing of a $2,000 spending spree for donors and staff at a West Hollywood strip club. On Monday, Steele sacked RNC chief of staff Ken McKay (officially McKay resigned).
After that move, Curt Anderson, a strategist and one of Steele’s top advisers, quit.
“Ken McKay’s departure is a huge loss for the Republican Party,” Anderson said in a statement to Politico, “Given our firm’s commitments to campaigns all over the country, we have concluded it is best for us to step away from our advisory role at the RNC.”
On Tuesday, RNC member Sean Mahoney also resigned. In a letter, he gave to The Union Leader of New Hampshire, Mahoney wrote, “The recent scandal involving RNC funds being used to entertain a small crowd at a Los Angeles strip club is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Steele has angered many Republicans with undiplomatic comments and using his office to gain paid speaking engagements.
Many are worried that the controversy will harm Republicans in November Congressional elections.
“Right now it is crucial for the RNC to get off the front pages of the newspapers,” Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina Republican Committee chairman who ran against Steele, told The New York Times.
“Get back to the mission of winning elections.”
There is concern that the brouhaha will disrupt fundraising efforts. “This kind of thing has got to stop, or they won't get any contributions," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said on Fox News Sunday.
Republican heavies have urged donors to give to committees supporting Senate and House candidates, rather than to the RNC.
Some top Republicans, including Karl Rove, the former adviser to President George W. Bush, and former GOP chairman Ed Gillespie, have set up their own group to help Republican candidates this year.
On Monday, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, came out for booting Steele.
"As a leader, you set the tone for your organization," Santorum said, according to The Iowa Republican. "If somebody who worked for my organization did something like this, they would be out of a job."
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