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Is the Republican National Committee finished?

Tea Party activists at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City March 30, 1020 by AP

Since Michael Steele was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee in January 2009, the once Grand Old Party has suffered a series of gaffes, scandals and other signals of a party in distress. Then the "tea party" activists came to town, further endangering the brand.

The party's problems run on several tracks. For one thing, Steele seems to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease. He predicted on Fox News during primary season that Republicans would not win back the House in November, violating the classic political rule of always talking up expectations. Chagrined by his behavior, big-league contributors have taken their money elsewhere, bypassing the RNC coffers to bolster those of the Republican House and Senate campaign committees.

For another, with reports of Steele's affection for lavish spending -- and the RNC's debacle over expensing a donor's visit to a topless bondage nightclub -- defections are growing. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, that magnet for Republican dollars, has twice asked the RNC to remove her name from an invitation to its fundraiser in New Orleans in mid-April. And Tony Perkins, who as head of the Family Research Council helped make Christianity a wedge issue in American politics, told supporters to stop donating to the RNC and give their money instead to individual candidates whose values they share.

Now, in a development alarming for the RNC as an institution, a group of Republicans is starting an outside political group to go head-to-head with the RNC for wealthy donors and prominence. American Crossroads hopes to raise $52 million to help Republican candidates this fall. Steven Law is leaving his top post at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to run the group, and lots of top-name Republicans, such as former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie, are on board.

None of this is to say that Republicans won't have a banner year at the polls in November. These are midterm elections, fraught with danger for any president, and Barack Obama is a lighting-rod figure who provokes tremendous distrust among the conservative base.

Nor is this to suggest that the RNC is the only party of scandal -- in fact, Republicans were busy this week putting out word that the Democratic National Committee also spends lavishly on its donors. Fair enough, though so far no word of bondage clubs.

But for the RNC, the timing of this widespread defection from its base could not be worse. Tea party activists are promoting a different kind of model -- up from the grass roots, and emotional. And the Supreme Court has cleared the way for corporations to play a much larger role in this year's elections, a decision that already limits party influence.

Even Karl Rove sounds worried. In the Wall Street Journal on Thursday morning, George W. Bush's political guru offers the tea party activists some tips on how to keep from becoming a fringe group (which seemed to come down to: stop hanging out with birthers and 9/11 conspiratorialists, and adopt a positive agenda).

The Angry Right is unlikely to take his suggestions -- movements of the heart rarely like hearing from establishment elders about how they should conduct themselves -- but Rove's gratuitous advice does show concern by party regulars about how uncontrollable -- and how destabilizing to the Republican Party's future -- the tea party activists are.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Tea party activists gather in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Credit: Associated Press

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Comments () | Archives (12)

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And I just betcha that if folks call Steele the "N" word, you just betcha that everyone will be running to the hills and crying "racism." They are getting a taste of their own medicine now and the GOP is not the moral base they were once was. Just look at people like Sanford and you see why.

All those rabid neo-con should've read Matt 7:1 better...judge not, let ye be judged. Interesting how now that the Republican party is proving themselves to be as corrupt as can be, the cons are acting like abject cowards and jumping off like rats leaving a sinking ship! Perhaps they'll finally clean up their own backyard, and stop demonizing the Democrats since their own eye has been blackened...but I won't hold my breath waiting for that one....

The "right wingers" aren't that commited to their aleged principals.

Read the "Rules for Radicals" by Saul Alinsky.

Then ask yourself, who is paying for the Agent Provocateurs at the RNC?

I believe can answer your question. Yes, the Republican National Committee is finnished

Let's compare
chairman Steele outraises Obama's DNC -- $100,000,000 in one year record
wins Virginia & New Jersey & Mass & 27 of 32 special elections
and has no debt---just breaking fund raising records last month.

LA Times still in bankruptcy.

Face it, the GOP has not had a single productive idea for many years, and all their cherished concepts, like "small government" and "trickle down" have just been proven to be so empty. All they have is a bunch of ignorant and angry bigots, and now they can't keep all their nuts in one basket.

Hey Johanna !
Take a walk on the wild side and visit RCP....look at all the polls and get a feel
of the tsunami of problems facing the dems.You will want to update this piece
I am sure,unless you are just trying to provoke zizanie.

Instead of intellectually masturbating with minor glitches affecting the
Republican national committee,why not discuss the anger and rejection by
not only the tea partiers but a growing majority of Americans that clearly see
they are beeing taken to the cleaner's by a bunch of sectarian,naive and
credulous democrat sheep in congress.How is it possible that so many feel
compelled to follow such clumsy leaders as Reid and Pelosi whose favorables
are in the single digits or lowest double digits ?

...which all shows how brilliant Sarah Palin is as a politician by embracing the movement early, emphasizing for it its positive aspects (because it wasn't organized enough to do so itself), and keeping the focus on that instead of condescending to it or fearing the emotion. (Maybe it takes a woman?) In the political sense, she's as much of a "natural" as Clinton (Bill, that is)and she's the only thing that will save Republicans from the tea party movement or rather, salvage the tea party movement for Republicans. She does feel their pain and articulates for them on a national platform - and she can only do that because she's not in office anymore. (So was it such a stupid decision to leave office?) And no amount of demonizing her by the opposition will change that. On the contrary, it allows her to shine. This is real triangulation at work and all that BS from Politico about Obama's supposed triangulation is, well, BS. Republicans can thank McCain for giving Palin a foot in the Republican establishment which makes the triangulation possible which could make the fall election an historic off-year election rather than a typical one. And all the snooty former campaign advisers can go pound sand. She's showing them how it should be done.

As far as "uncontrollable" and "destabilizing", Michael Steele is more of a problem for Republicans because it goes to their fundraising base and the question is whether they can survive HIM. "American Crossroads" is a good solution. PC or no PC, why has it taken them this long to think of it? How many seats in November do you think Steele has cost them so far, either by not fundraising or by pure incompetence und hubris?

You will likely feel better down the road if you didn't vote for either party because you liked them. You did what you did because you liked the other side less.

Nancy Pelosi's approval rating is 11%.

Harry Reid's is 8%.

Yes, Americans absolutely LOVE the Democrat Party, and
higher taxes, and bigger government, and more control, and
more Kool Aid, and less freedom.

At least the stupid ones do.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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