High-ranking departures point to "full-scale bloodletting" at RNC

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has been under pressure lately. Since he took over in January 2009, the RNC has spent far more than it has raised, and the latest numbers show the Democratic National Committee ahead of the RNC in cash of hand (which is highly unusual). Major Republican donors have been fleeing the RNC for various reasons, including staffers’ embarrassing fundraising proposals and massive overspending on luxury hotels, limos and nightclubs. Today RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay resigned, prompting one of Steele’s advisers to leave in what Jonathan Martin described as “a full-scale bloodletting”:

“Leadership requires that I can safely assure you, our donors, and the American people that our mission is what drives every dollar we spend, every phone call we make, every email we send and every event we organize,” Steele wrote in the email [sent to RNC members and donors on Monday], obtained by POLITICO. “Recent events have called that assurance into question and the buck stops with me. That is why I have made this change in my management team and why I am confident about going forward to November with renewed focus and energy.”

McKay didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

But his apparent firing has roiled the close-knit world of GOP operatives and Monday night longtime Republican strategist and Steele adviser Curt Anderson said his consulting firm would no longer be working with the RNC.

“Ken McKay’s departure is a huge loss for the Republican Party,” Anderson said in a statement to POLITICO. “Ken steered the party through very successful elections last fall that have given us tremendous momentum. He’s a great talent. 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. We have high personal regard for the Chairman and always have; we wish him well.”

It’s hard to see how the turmoil at the RNC won’t end with Steele’s departure, although Josh Marshall argued today that Steele

can’t be fired, in significant measure, because he’s black. Because canning Steele now would only drive home the reality that Republicans were trying to paper over, fairly clumsily, when they hired him in the first place. So Republicans are stuck with his myriad goofs and #pressfails and incompetent management and all the rest because of a set of circumstances entirely of their own making.

Hey, don’t blame Iowa’s RNC members; they voted for Katon Dawson over Steele in January 2009. But I must say I doubt a guy who became a Republican because the government desegregated his high school, and more recently belonged to an all-white country club, would have been the right man to rebuild the GOP’s image.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa's RNC reps are not happy today

The Republican National Committee elected Michael Steele of Maryland as its new chairman today.

He was far from a consensus choice and only obtained a majority of RNC members on the sixth ballot.  Steele is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a frequent “talking head” on news analysis shows. He is black and pulled a significant share of the African-American vote in his losing bid for the U.S. Senate in 2006. On the other hand, he seemed to run away from the Republican label during that campaign. I don’t see how other GOP candidates could pull that off.

Iowa RNC Committeeman Steve Scheffler and Committeewoman Kim Lehman both supported South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson, who turned out to be Steele’s toughest rival today.  Don’t ask me why Republicans who presumably want to start winning elections again would want the party’s leader to be a southerner who was in an all-white country club when the GOP is looking more like a regional party than ever before and the Democratic president (who happens to be black) is wildly popular.  

Anyway, Scheffler and Lehman didn’t just prefer a different candidate for RNC chair, they went on record criticizing Steele:

Though the pro-life and pro-gun Steele built a conservative record in his home state, the former Maryland lieutenant governor’s one-time affiliation with the Republican Leadership Council, which religious conservatives view as hostile to their agenda, remains a deal breaker in some sectors of the committee.

“That is an organization that created itself for the purpose of eliminating a very important part of the Republican Party and its family values,” said Iowa Committeewoman Kim Lehman, who supports South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawson’s campaign. “Michael Steele crossed over a serious line.”

“In that field, the only one that would be my number six out of six choice would be Michael Steele,” said Iowa Committeeman Steve Scheffler, citing Steele’s “past deep involvement with the Republican Leadership Council.”

“They partnered with groups like Planned Parenthood,” said Scheffler, who joined Lehman in endorsing Dawson. “In my view, you don’t lend your name to a group if you don’t agree with them.”

It’s fine by me if Lehman and Scheffler want to keep alienating Republican moderates, but I hope their open hostility to Steele doesn’t jeopardize Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status in 2012.

Getting back to the RNC competition, I was surprised that former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell turned out not to be a serious contender, despite lining up a long list of endorsements from conservative intellectuals. He dropped out after the fourth ballot today and endorsed Steele.

With Steele and Blackwell back in the news this month I’ve really missed Steve Gilliard, who used to write hilarious posts about them in 2006.

UPDATE: Holy cow. Dawson explains the roots of his political views. It basically comes down to being mad that the government desegregated his school when he was 15. Just the guy to give the GOP a more tolerant, inclusive image!

Apparently Republican Party of Iowa chairman Matt Strawn endorsed the outgoing RNC chairman, Mike Duncan, earlier this week. Conservative blogger Iowans Rock doesn’t understand why anyone would want to “reward failure” by keeping the same guy in charge of the party.

However, Krusty says Strawn backed Dawson today. That must have been after Duncan withdrew from the race. Krusty is somewhat concerned about Iowa remaining first in the presidential nominating process. One of Krusty’s commenters says Lehman worked the phones to discourage other RNC members from supporting Steele.

SECOND UPDATE: Strawn, Scheffler and Lehman have only praise for Steele in their official statements:

RPI Chairman Matt Strawn:

“I am excited to work with Chairman Steele to advance our principled agenda, rebuild our party from the grassroots up, and elect Republicans all across Iowa.  I am also encouraged by my conversations with Chairman Steele regarding Iowa’s First in the Nation presidential status. I will work closely with him to ensure Iowa retains its leading role for the 2012 caucus and beyond”

National Committeeman Steve Scheffler:

“It is a new day. I am thrilled that our newly elected national party chairman, Michael Steele, is going to lead us to once again becoming the majority party–based on enunciating our winning conservative message, a 50 state strategy, and perfecting our technological and fundraising prowess.”

National Committeewoman Kim Lehman:

“With sincere honor, I support and congratulate Chairman Steele.  I look forward to working with him in the defense of families, our liberties and the security of our country.  Chairman Steele has committed, with great clarity, his ability to bring this party back to its greatness, which transcends politics.”

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