Michael Steele Attacks Establishment, Stakes Claim As A Tea Party Voice In The RNC

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With the Republican National Commitee still reeling from former Political Director Gentry Collins’ scathing indictment of chairman Michael Steele in his resignation letter, Steele has sent a letter of his own to the RNC’s voting members defending his tenure at the helm of the committee.

TPM obtained a copy of the memo that Steele sent today, in which he highlighted his efforts to reach out to the tea party and drive turnout by reaching out to the Republican grassroots. And he took a less-than-subtle shot at establishment types who kept the fired-up conservative activists in the tea party at arms length for most of the cycle.Read the memo here.

“The RNC was determined that the voters who spoke out in the August 2009 health care town hall meetings would overwhelmingly cast votes for Republicans in November 2010,” Steele writes. “While President Obama and the Washington crowd treated the Tea Party with disdain or condescension, the RNC accorded them respect.”

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Steele writes that his branch of the GOP “welcomed” insurgent candidates like Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen.-elect Pat Toomey (R-PA), which the NRSC initially scoffed at before embracing as they shored up tea party support.

The RNC was “deferring to voters, and not the political establishment, to choose their representatives,” Steele writes.

Steele fully embraced the tea party movement back in Dec. 2009, while many in the rest of the establishment were still trying to keep their chosen nominees from falling to tea party-backed candidates in Republican primaries. He carried on that outreach through the election, which he wrapped up with a 48-state bus tour that included appearances with tea party uberstar Sarah Palin.

Without Republican outreach like his, Steele writes, the conservative base could have abandoned the GOP all together.

“The fact that those disaffected conservatives overwhelmingly chose to back Republican candidates was hardly a foregone conclusion,” Steele writes. “In fact, given the shambles the party was in at the end of 2008, circumstances were ripe for a new party to emerge.”

Now, it seems, Steele is attempting to turn that winning bet on the tea party into political capital heading into the RNC’s highly contested leadership elections this January. Steele hasn’t publicly stated that he’s running for a second term as chair of the RNC, but plenty of Repubicans have come out of the woodwork to warn RNC members against reelecting him anyway.

Among them was Collins, who turned his resignation letter into a devastating indictment of the RNC’s finances under Steele, who he said left the party deeply in debt and unable to support competitive candidates at the end of 2010.

Steele refutes some of those charges in his memo, pointing to his own set of numbers to illustrate the party’s finances.

“The RNC smashed the record for most money collected in a midterm cycle by any political committee whose party did not control Congress or the White House,” he writes, noting that the final totals are “still pending.”

On the spending side, Steele says his tenure was a total success as well.

“The RNC has raised and spent more money in this cycle on behalf of Republican candidates–by far–than any other entity, including both official GOP campaign committees and nominally independent groups that are not bound by the limitations that apply to the RNC regarding amounts or sources of donations, or disclosure of donors,” Steele writes.

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