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RNC's Michael Steele -- Ready To Move On?

The not-so-long strange trip of Michael Steele as Republican National Committee chairman appears near an end as speculation mounts that he will announce Monday evening he won't seek re-election.

Again, it's only guessing at this point since Steele could just as easily confound his party (it wouldn't be the first time) by announcing a re-election bid during a scheduled private teleconference.

But there are strong signs that the controversial chair might say he's ready to spend more time with his family.

As Politico.com notes, he hasn't made the usual preparations one might expect. A Politico excerpt:

Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, has built no known reelection team or structure, making the prospect of a campaign unlikely in the face of competition that grows fiercer by the day. But allies said Steele has not revealed his plans, and the chairman has been nothing if not unpredictable.

Steele's appointment always seemed like something of a me-too move by the RNC after the election of President Obama.

When Steele was elected to be the first black RNC chair in January 2009, it had the distinctive feel of a tactical move meant to counter the popular excitement attending Obama's historic victory.

But Steele ran into trouble almost immediately. On his arrival at RNC headquarters, he conducted a purge of staffers, ensuring turmoil right from the start.

Then, instead of taking the RNC chair's traditional role of letting the party's elected public officials have the highest profile, Steele threw himself in the spotlight with abandon. Numerous gaffes followed.

He called himself the "de facto leader" of the Republican Party and seemed to dismiss Rush Limbaugh as merely "an entertainer."   Steele later apologized to the talk-show host.

Afghanistan was a war of "Obama's choosing," Steele said, a bizarre statement on its face since number one, President Bush took the nation to war after al Qaida attacked the U.S. from its Afghan base and number two, most Republican officials supported that war.

Then, in early 2010, Steele said he doubted Republicans could win the House, not exactly the kind of statement you expect from the party's "de facto leader."

What's more, there  the many questions raised by RNC spending under Steele.

There were reports of private jets, limos and clubs. The best-known example, perhaps, was $2,000 spent by an RNC staffer at a Los Angeles nightspot with a bondage theme.

The many controversies led Republican leaders like Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush's political strategist, and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who also once headed the RNC, to announce that in 2010 they would raise and spend millions of dollars outside RNC channels.

And they did. Their separate money raising arguably made it more difficult for the RNC to raise under Steele the kind of cash it had in the past on behalf of Republican candidates.

Which made it ironic after the mid-term election, that Steele was criticized for not raising the kind of money others had before him.

Wasn't that the point of arranging the separate money channels, to make sure as little money as possible passed through the RNC while Steele ran it?

Anyway, we'll be covering Steele's decision whatever it turns out to be, as well as the growing cast of would-be successors to the top RNC position.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.