Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s name was barely mentioned at a forum for those seeking to replace him – but his fundraising skills, outside activities and leadership were all at issue Wednesday in Washington, D.C.. Each participant at the forum for RNC chairman candidates took specific shots at Steele’s alleged shortcomings while shying away from direct criticism.
The participants in the forum, sponsored by FreedomWorks, part of the tea party movement, and the Republican National Conservative Caucus, spent two hours discussing their goals and what they might bring to the job while rarely mentioning Steele.
“We need a strong and effective chair,” said Ann Wagner, a former Missouri RNC committee member. She added that the person must devote all their energies to the job, “24/7.”
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Gentry Collins, the former RNC political director, said the next leader of the RNC must have a “laser focus.”
Former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan said, “raising money is a big part of being RNC chairman.” Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan GOP, said, “It takes two things to win an election, money and everything else.”
Steele’s tenure has been marked by criticism over his inability to raise money, his focus on outside activities such speaking engagements and book writing, and lack of leadership.
Republican National Conservative Caucus Chairman James Bopp Jr., a committee member from Indiana, tells Newsmax that Steele has not said either way if he's going to seek re-election. But Bopp said, "[Steele] is calling around … talking to people … trying to make deals."
Even though Steele has not made his intentions known, other are already in the mix including Chris Healy, the Connecticut GOP chairwoman, Maria Cino, a former RNC staff director and Bush administration official, and Reince Priebus, the Wisconsin Republic chair.
A number of those interested in Steele’s job are former allies, including Collins, Anuzis and Priebus.
Even when specifically asked about Steele’s vulnerabity and how they might defeat him, only two at the forum took on the issue directly.
Collins said “Chairman Steele is a fine man and a good man” but added that he had failed in his fundraising responsiblities.
Anuzis said the next chair has to raise more money, “have a better ground game, and a different focus and direction.
“This is not about firing somebody, but amout hiring someone,” he said.
The participants all acknowledged that the Republican Party had strayed from its core values of smaller government and reduced spending and had paid a price in 2006 and 2008.
Anuzis said that Republicans voted for the bridge to nowhere and Americans saw that, adding we can’t just “talk the talk, we must walk the walk.”
When asked about Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in campaign against tea party favorite Joe Miller, who defeated her in the GOP primary, all were united in saying that it was the job of the party to support the nominee.
Duncan said he was “personally disappointed” by Murkowski’s actions.
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