Last week, RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s surprising bid for re-election launched the RNC into an internal squabble. As ThinkProgress’s Lee Fang first reported yesterday, influential RNC committee member Jim Bopp slammed Steele for “playing the race card” (one of Steele’s own popular plays) for implying his leadership makes the GOP “the party of Lincoln.” Steele returned fire over the airwaves, calling Bopp an “idiot” who is bitter over Steele for “cutting his million dollar contract with the RNC.”
Smelling gaffe-prone blood in the water, former Steele aide and current opponent Gentry Collins rushed to the RNC purity-pledger’s defense. Referencing ThinkProgress’s report of Steele’s comments this morning, Collins demanded that Steele “publiclly apologize to Mr. Bopp” for “slandering him over the public airwaves” in a display that proves why donors have been “abandoning the party”:
Collins, who served as the RNC’s political director under Steele before launching his own campaign for the chairmanship earlier this month, questioned Steele’s “temperament” and said the remark suggests “a complete lack of discipline demonstrating an unfitness for leadership of a national political party.”
“It’s no wonder major donors have been abandoning the RNC in record numbers,” Collins said Tuesday. “When the Chairman engages in name-calling of members of his own committee, he diminishes the RNC, the office of Chairman, and himself. For the good of the Committee, he should publicly apologize to Mr. Bopp. I’ve known and worked with Jim Bopp both on the committee and on campaigns – it would be hard to find a more principled leader in our Party. Mr. Steele should be thanking him for his service, not slandering him over the public airwaves.”
Collins is one of five candidates hoping to oust Steele. And in seeking his former boss’s post, Collins has certainly pulled no punches. He effectively coupled his campaign for RNC chair with a four-page letter of resignation assailing Steele for his fund-raising and leadership abilities. His public derision only augmented the GOP growing motivation to muscle Steele out of party leadership. Numerous GOP power-hitters like future House Speaker John Boehner (OH), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), and Gov. Haley Barbour (MS) have signaled preference for a new chairman but are “resigned” to accept Steele “should no clear alternative emerge to defeat him.”
But with Collins landing the latest blow to Steele, the winner that emerges from the RNC’s “racially-charged food fight” is now anyone’s guess.