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Michael Steele thinks he'd like another RNC chair term, but it's not really up to him

January 28, 2010 |  5:24 pm

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele

News flash from Waikiki, Hawaii: Michael Steele isn’t going anywhere.

Not if he can help it.

Steele’s tenure as chairman of the Republican National Committee has been (to put it mildly) a bit rocky. Or perhaps boulder-y.

There's been a long catalog of controversial statements, gaffes and other missteps that have stacked up headlines to the point that fellow Republicans now cringe any time he passes near a microphone.

To name just the most recent: He ruled out Republican chances of winning back the House of Representatives in November (d'oh!), blindsided party leaders by writing a book criticizing the GOP and raised a stink when it turned out he’s been booking lucrative speeches as a side deal.

Then there’s this whole business of holding the party’s winter meeting in Hawaii (today’s weather:  delightfully sunny) while party leaders in Congress accuse President Obama of....

...being out of touch with the struggles real Americans face. Steele noted earlier here that Hawaii is the president's hometown.

In a contentious news conference today, Steele pushed back at reporters who questioned his financial management of the RNC -- “Get it right, because you’ve been getting it wrong” -- and challenged accounts of private grumbling among committee members about his performance.

“Look, my style is not something you get used to very easily. I know that,” he said. “But at the end of the day, the members of this party, and this is what they reinforced to me, charged me to do two things: raise money and win elections. On those two fronts, I think we’re doing OK.”

Steele’s initial two-year term ends in January 2011, which comes after the closely watched midterm elections in November. If the GOP does well, despite Steele's off-message House prediction, he'll reap some of the credit. And because the RNC picks its own chairman when there's no GOP president to dictate his personal choice as party chief, a rehiring decision will be up to the committee's 168 members.

Asked how long he would like to serve, Steele smiled and replied, “As long as the members will have me.”

It's a good thing Steele's possible reelection depends only on the RNC's members because many other prominent D.C. Republicans, who genuinely admire his up-by-the-bootstraps personal story, privately use words like "disaster" when discussing his tenure so far, fundraising aside.

Asked specifically about the prospects of winning a second term, notwithstanding all the griping, Steele said, “As of right now I feel good about it. … It’s going to be in the hands of members. I’m very excited about their trust and their faith in what I’m doing and the success we’ve had as a party.”

-- Mark Z. Barabak

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Photo credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press