I frankly can’t believe the guy’s thinking of running again after the RNC was a near-nonentity in the biggest GOP midterm win in decades. The endless media gaffes were one thing, but they could have and would have been forgiven if he was running a tight ship otherwise. Not so, if political director Gentry Collins is to be believed:

The short version of the RNC’s 2010 troubles as described by Collins: The committee couldn’t afford to run an independent expenditure ad campaign on behalf of their candidates, didn’t fund a paid voter turnout operation for Senate and gubernatorial races, left its vaunted 72-Hour turnout program effectively unfunded, offered only a fraction of the direct-to-candidate financial contributions they made four years ago and dramatically scaled back its support of state parties…

Collins is not one of the committee’s persistent Steele critics but a respected operative and senior staffer inside the RNC building who was given authority over the $15 million line of credit the party took out this fall. In addition to the normal duties of his job, Collins spent much of the summer and fall quietly travelling the country and meeting with major donors in an effort to boost the party’s lackluster fundraising. It was a highly unusual task for a political director and, coupled with his primary job responsibilities, effectively made the Iowa native the operational head of the party.

He blames Steele specifically for the dramatic falloff among big donors, which left the RNC $75 million or so off its take in 2006. (Then again, the 2006 RNC had a Republican president in office to help rally donors.) Here’s the killer, though. Back in March, blogging yet another in the endless stream of “new internal difficulties at the RNC” stories that have leaked over the past two years, I said, “if the RNC gets caught short-handed financially in the fall and loses winnable House races because it can’t pay for ads, the wrath of conservatives will be unimaginable.” Well, here’s Collins claiming that that’s what happened — not just in terms of ads, but in terms of organization:

He makes the case that the party’s lack of money directly resulted in missed opportunities in an otherwise stellar year for the GOP.

Collins cites a study that he says found that the GOP could have won the Washington and Colorado Senate races with a better field operation and says that he’d chalk up narrow gubernatorial losses in Connecticut, Minnesota and Vermont to the same lack of funds for a ground game.

The veteran Republican operative also tallies 21 House contests in every corner of the country that he asserts “could have been competitive if not for lack of funds.”

GOP strategists like Alex Castellanos and Henry Barbour were quick today to praise Collins as a total pro, but coincidentally, WaPo’s now reporting that he himself is considering a run for RNC chair. Also coincidentally, no sooner did Collins’s letter leak than one of David Frum’s associates heard from a “senior Republican source close to the RNC” that Steele himself is reconsidering whether to run again and will decide by Thanksgiving. Whether that’s true or a rumor cooked up to serve the coordinated effort to push the guy out is unclear, but with most RNC members momentarily undecided on whom to back, the timing certainly … is fortuitous. Here’s the bottom line: Are grassroots righties happy with the way the RNC performed this year? Do you want to risk another cycle like this in 2012, when Obama and the DNC will go all out to keep the White House? I’m happy to assume that not everything blamed on Steele is in fact his fault, but surely some of it is, and the stakes are about to get as high as they can get. After all the gaffes and internal squabbling, what exactly is the argument for not changing course?