Steele Looks Forward; Tries to Quiet Challenges

Today I attended the RNC Chairmen’s Meeting in Maryland, just outside DC. The headlines say that Steele faces a rebellion from some members of the Committee, who are trying to take away some of his authority over Committee pursestrings. The message here is that Republicans are completely united – save for 6 or 8 members, in a committee of more than 150 – and that the Committee is unlikely to hobble the Chairman.

Steele’s speech today stressed that he is looking forward, not back:

If you can draw a conclusion from the audience, Steele’s comments seem to have gotten a warm response. The lunch audience – composed of many of the officials who’ll decide on any limits to his authority – gave him several standing ovations. I met afterwards with 6-8 of Steele’s strongest supporters; it seems one reason that the anti-Steele crowd is having trouble building support is that so many committee members are encouraged by progress on the ground. Several commented that Steele is criss-crossing the country doing dozens of local events. They say Steele is getting a great reception, with GOP foot soldiers eager to meet him. They look to the success of the Tea Party movement, and see the Tea Partiers as the core of an active and engaged grassroots movement. And they stress that of the people who’ve come out to register their anger at big spending and big borrowing, many are Independents, or unregistered voters, or even Democrats. Ohio Chairman DeWine commented that the Tea Partiers are engaging on an issue that’s ‘in the Republican wheelhouse.’

I hear analysts saying that the GOP is in dire straits, but you couldn’t guess it walking around here. These state party leaders are excited, and seemingly can’t wait for 2010 to get here.

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