Embattled GOP Chairman Michael Steele got a much-needed boost Friday from a majority of state party chiefs ahead of his Saturday speech to activists, his first public appearance since a spending scandal hit the Republican National Committee.
"We stand behind Chairman Steele as he continues to lead us on the path victory in November," said a letter of support signed by 31 of Steele's state counterparts.
A lack of unanimity, however, reflected worries in the party about Steele's management of the 168-member RNC.
On Thursday, North Carolina's Tom Fetzer became the first state party chairman to call for Steele's resignation. New Hampshire committeeman Sean Mahoney resigned his post this past week because of "out-of-touch, free-spending culture of Washington" within the party, and Steele's top aide and outside advisers cut ties with the committee.
Underscoring the concerns, state party chairmen were planning to meet not just with each other but also with Steele throughout the weekend on the sidelines of the Republican Southern Leadership Conference to talk about the latest woes plaguing the committee.
"There's a lot of stuff going on and we would like to discuss it," said Louisiana state chairman Roger Villere.
"What we're trying to do is come together as a party," said Villere. "The RNC is ready to move forward this fall. We think we can win a lot of races all over the country. We have a lot of positive momentum going on."
A target of criticism since he became chairman last year, Steele and the RNC have been doing damage control since the disclosure of an almost $2,000 tab at a sex-themed California night club. The latest attempt to quell the controversy came Friday, with the letter of support from state party chairman.
"We believe Chairman Michael Steele can lead the RNC to be a full partner with us this fall in our efforts to fire Nancy Pelosi and win Republican majorities in Congress and among governors," Steele backers wrote. "His record at winning elections has been stellar, his fundraising ability has been solid, and he has honed our victory programs' ability to identify and deliver voters for Republican candidates.
Despite the negative publicity, it's unlikely that the RNC would fire Steele. Two-thirds of the committee would have to vote to kick him out of office, and there doesn't seem to be an inclination to act with less than a year left in his two-year term and midterm congressional elections this fall.
Steele has vowed to remain in his post.
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