The Republican National Committee’s debate for potential chairmen today was less contentious than some might have expected – there was general agreement on issues of policy and management, and no shots taken at Wisconsin state chairman Reince Priebus, who currently leads the race in announced support.
But incumbent RNC chairman Michael Steele did defend his controversial tenure at the debate, which has come with its share of gaffes. Addressing his critics, Steele said simply, “My record stands for itself. We won.”
Steele was, however, criticized by fellow candidates Priebus, Saul Anuzis, Ann Wagner and Maria Cino for his handling of the 72 hour Get Out of the Vote program that the RNC traditionally runs every election cycle to sponsor Capitol Hill staff deployments around the country.
“It’s a little frustrating to hear people talking about fully funding get out the vote… We didn’t have a 72 hour voter program, we had a 12 month voter program,” said Steele, after asking for more time in order to defend himself. “The idea that we didn’t fully fund is really kind of bizarre because we did.”
Steele, who seemed to loosen up over the course of the debate, told FrumForum that he “had his game face on… everyone wants to dissect [the debate], and you know, rewrite the facts [of my tenure], and this was a chance to set the record straight.”
The incumbent chairman did express discontentment with now-opponent Reince Priebus, whom Steele had appointed as top counsel for the RNC. “It’s disappointing, you would hope that the bonds of loyalty were thicker than they apparently were. But everyone makes their own decisions, for their own reasons, and you live with it – or not,” he told FrumForum.
That said, the debate was a rather tame affair that focused several times on policies – for example, which programs the incoming Republican Congress should cut – something that the RNC Chairman is not involved in shaping.
“I wish there had been more discussion. I think it was driven by the questions. I wish there had been more discussions about the mechanics and the management and fundraising the Republican National Committee,” former Missouri state chair and RNC candidate Ann Wagner told FrumForum.
Maria Cino, the former deputy chairman for the RNC, was challenged by the moderator on claims that she lobbied for the passage of Obamacare. After the debate, she told FrumForum that “I am for affordable, accessible health care – I am against Obamacare. I campaigned and worked with Republicans for the principles that the Republicans put forth from the very beginning… as Chairman, I will work with Republicans to repeal or replace Obamacare.”
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