It’s distressingly lonely at the top for RNC chairman Michael Steele. Even his GOP colleagues agree he’s doing more harm than good to their cause, according to a National Journal survey released online Thursday.
A whopping 71 percent of the 104 Republican insiders polled deem Steele a “liability” to the party, while only 20 percent described him as an “asset.” An additional 9 percent said “neither” or “both.”
The officials, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly, lobbed at their de-facto leader a series of scathing — and at times personal — attacks.
“‘Liability’ doesn’t begin to describe what a deadweight the current chair is to the GOP,” said one operative, who called Steele an “ego-driven, off-key message hog who’s failing at raising money, putting in place a sufficiently funded voter-mobilization program, or taking the steps necessary for redistricting.”
A former lieutenant governor of Maryland, Steele was elected to his current post just days after the inauguration of President Barack Obama. His tenure has been marked by innumerable controversies and clashes with party officials, who aren’t sparing him any punches behind the scenes.
Bashing him as everything from “uninspiring” to an “operational amateur,” colleagues painted Steele as an incompetent leader who’s squandering a “golden opportunity” to channel the public energy toward enhancing GOP prospects.
“Michael Steele is an anchor around the neck of the future of the Republican Party,” a GOP operative declared. “He needs to go.”
It wasn’t the first time Steele irked his fellow Republicans, but tensions escalated early in January when he publicly taunted party leaders who reportedly questioned his leadership. “Get a life,” he told his critics, inviting them to “fire me” or “shut up” and “get out of the way.”
Even those who viewed him as an asset offered compliments that seemed underhanded. “He’s the most prominent African-American Republican we’ve got: Treat him with kid gloves,” said one Republican. Another hailed his “guerrilla-style unpredictability.”
The chairman has wrangled with his party over his lavish spending of RNC money on personal items, his side career as a motivational speaker and his extensive promotion of his recent book at the purported expense of putting more effort into his job, among other issues.
“What a joke. What an embarrassment,” lamented a Republican respondent to the National Journal, chalking up Steele’s high rank within the party to “affirmative-action.” Another labeled him the “gift that keeps giving — to the Democrats.”
Democrats, by comparison, appear to hold a more favorable view of Steele’s DNC counterpart, Tim Kaine. A sizable 61 percent of Democratic insiders called their party’s chairman an “asset” while 16 percent labeled him a “liability.”
The complete list of respondents to the National Journal poll are listed on the organization’s Web site. It was conducted by James A. Barnes and Peter Bell.