In a move that had been rumored for months, Michael Steele stepped down as the chairman of the Republican Party this weekend during the RNC winter meeting after it became clear he had no legitimate shot of retaining his chairmanship. The new chairman will be Reince Priebus.
Priebus is a relative unknown, but as party chairman in Wisconsin, he was able to orchestrate sweeping wins by Republicans during the mid-term elections in November. Steele, who faced widespread criticism for his lack of fundraising success and numerous missteps during public appearances, ended up suffering the final indignity of not even having enough power to be able to influence who would be chosen as his successor. Steele chose to support Maria Cino, who only managed to finish third in the voting.
The election of Priebus as RNC chairman should bring a more structured operating procedure to the national committee. While Steele seemed more preoccupied with engaging the cable news networks, Priebus seems intent on running the RNC like an actual business. In his victory speech, Priebus made clear that his first priority was to restore a sound business model that was effective and efficient. This would be aided by hiring a top-notch staff, reviewing current plans of action and restructuring the Party’s financial plan.
As the Republican Party gears up for trying to take control of the Senate and the White House in 2012, it is clear that Priebus will be focused on making the party attractive to donors again. Numerous potential donors shied away from donating to the party while Steele was in charge because they simply did not trust Steele’s team to spend their money properly. In a move that can only be construed as sending an early message to insiders and outsiders alike that Priebus will run the RNC differently, Priebus almost immediately fired the entire staff that was planning the 2012 Republican National Convention. This should show potential donors that the fears many had about cronyism and incompetence in the RNC while Steele was in charge are going to be addressed strongly.
Many people believe that the Republican Party only had such a landslide win in November because voters simply voted against Democrats. Despite that belief, the rise of the Tea Party generated a substantial increase in political activism amongst voters leaning toward conservative principles. If Priebus is able to steer the Republican Party to a position that is attractive to these voters, the party could definitely see a substantial increase in donations and support. If Priebus is able to draw in substantial Tea Party support while at the same time gathering support from more moderate Republicans and independents, Priebus might just be able to pull off winning back the White House and the Senate in 2012. It is obvious that the Republican National Committee faces struggles getting its finances in order and uniting different factions of the party, but based on what he did in Wisconsin, Priebus seems to bring the skill set that the Republican Party is looking for.
CSPAN coverage of Republican National Committee winter meeting