Fearing ugly exit, GOP officials trying to quietly remove Steele
By Michael O’Brien - 11/17/10 06:00 AM ET
They fear that alienating Steele could cause headaches for the party’s attempt to win back the White House in 2012.
Republican leaders have started to clamor for change atop the RNC while acknowledging that if Steele wages a tough fight for a second term as chairman, it could evolve into a politically messy spectacle.
“There’s widespread concern about the appearance of dumping the chairman of the RNC for the wrong reasons — particularly the first African-American chairman of the RNC when we have the first African-American president,” said former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.).
Weber added, “In politics, perception is everything.”
Steele has not declared he will seek a second term at the RNC, but he has not ruled it out. The former Maryland lieutenant governor has been vocal since the Nov. 2 elections in promoting the RNC’s role in delivering Republican victories this fall, triggering speculation he will mount a bid.
After several gaffes as chairman, some Republicans privately suggested that Steele could be removed before the end of his term, which expires early next year. But cutting an RNC chairmanship short requires two-thirds of the 168 committee members — votes that critics of Steele did not have.
Congressional Republicans distanced themselves from Steele throughout 2010, with many of them thinking he would leave as the 112th Congress started.
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Hill that Steele did not have a role in the House GOP’s “Pledge to America.”
In January, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to defend Steele, saying, “Chairman Steele will be judged on the basis of how much money did he raise and how many candidates did he elect.”
Steele this month said he has won more elections than any chairman since 1938.
Steele’s office at the RNC did not respond on Tuesday to a request for comment.
Opponents of a second term for Steele are hoping he will see the writing on the wall and politely bow out of the race.