Chalk up another win for Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
The four Republican victories in the Wisconsin recall elections means that the GOP maintains control over the state senate. But for Priebus, this was something more personal – he has strong ties in Wisconsin, as the former chairman of the state GOP.
While he was running for the RNC chairmanship, Priebus would frequently make reference to the GOP’s victories in Wisconsin, name-dropping Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker as evidence of his accomplishments.
A week ago, Priebus said that the RNC was “all in” on the Wisconsin recall. If the Republicans had suffered the loss of the state senate, so too would the RNC have suffered a loss of prestige. Familiar questions about whether the RNC remains relevant would have bubbled up. But they haven’t, and Priebus should get some credit for it.
The Republican victory in Wisconsin caps off a calm seven months for the RNC chairman, who has sought to rebuild the institution’s credibility after a tumultuous tenure under Michael Steele.
Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, who is affiliated with the conservative group American Crossroads, and competes with the RNC for funds, said that Chairman Priebus had “saved the Republican National Committee … the RNC is once again a driving force in Republican messaging.”
Indeed, one can see that in the themes Republicans choose to criticize President Obama on – for example, the ‘fundraiser-in-chief’ message that the RNC has been pounding for months.
But despite his victories, Priebus still faces a formidable challenge in fundraising, which has been less than stellar. The RNC raised $6.7 million in June, putting their six-month haul at $36.6 million – less than the $38.2 million that Michael Steele raised in his first six months of the 2010 cycle.
The good news is that the big donors are back – Priebus announced that major donors have already given more than in 2009 and 2010 combined. But rank-and-file small-dollar donors still haven’t been convinced to return.
There’s been no drama in the last seven months – a welcome relief for some RNC members who felt that Steele’s tenure was too focused on the man, and not enough on the messaging. But the RNC remains mired in debt – $17.5 million as of June 30 – and there remains a long road ahead.