At first glance, there seems to be a 180-degree difference between what people expected of Michael Steele’s Republican National Committee chairmanship and what he’s delivered. The area where he was supposed to be most effective — as a communicator and messenger for a tainted GOP brand — has actually been where we’ve so far seen Steele’s biggest blunders. Yet his top-down review of the RNC has gotten some favorable press, even though there was widespread concern about Steele’s abilities as a nuts-and-bolts party administrator.
On the other hand, a lot of criticisms of Steele have been validated by his early performance. I repeatedly heard people complain that Steele was too eager to ingratiate himself to his audiences, something that would make him an unreliable defender of the more controversial Republican platform positions when he ventured (as he inevitably would) into hostile territory and an unsteady if charismatic messenger. So far, that’s exactly what we’ve seen. It’s still very early in his tenure and things could change. But for now Phil is absolutely right: a lot of Republicans are probably missing Mike Duncan’s quiet but effective fundraising right now.