Jay Cost: Steele must go

He says it’s time, as does Ace, as do I. It’s one thing to be ineffective as chairman — losing NY-20, for instance, which wasn’t really his fault — but it’s another to beclown your way into becoming a national punchline. More than anything right now, the GOP needs to project competence and gravitas; Steele’s done the opposite, out-gaffeing even Biden over the past three months, with his klutzy digression about the base’s disdain for Mormonism just the latest example. Ace is right too about how his perch at the RNC seems to be more interesting to him as a platform for his own persona than for nuts-and-bolts organizational work. The tone was set at the beginning when he won the chairmanship and immediately taunted Obama by saying, “How you like me now?” — an early window onto both his ego and his penchant for the sort of cringe-inducing slang that The One goofed on him for at the WHCD.

It’s enough already. Cost:

On the issue of flip-flopping – all signs point to Mitt Romney having an interest in a future presidential candidacy. He might very well succeed where he failed last cycle, becoming the 2012 Republican nominee. That would make these comments quite unfortunate. One could imagine the DNC working this into a general election campaign ad. The kicker is pretty obvious: “Mitt Romney’s own boss doesn’t think he’s honest. Why should you?”

Second, the RNC Chairman has no business talking about a tension that exists within his party, unless the goal is to minimize it. American political parties are broad-based coalitions that seek to unify diverse groups under one banner. The views of Mormons and evangelical Christians have a lot of overlaps, which makes them political allies. However, they disagree on matters of importance to both groups. Typically, these disagreements are rarely discussed in political venues, so their tensions are usually irrelevant for the GOP. It follows that the GOP has no interest in bringing these disagreements forward. It’s only going to annoy Mormons and evangelicals, and potentially pit them against one another.

Additionally, it’s bad for the party’s image. If you’re trying to woo marginal voters, you don’t want to emphasize the fact that groups within the party have conflicts. Think Progress headlined its clip of Steele as this: “Steele Calls GOP Base Bigoted, Says They ‘Rejected’ Romney Because They Have ‘Issues With Mormonism.'” Republicans should hope that the mainstream press does not run with Steele’s comments, as it will only forward the “GOP is shrinking and narrow” meme, which he has actually helped along in the past.

The Romney camp was forced into rebuking Steele this afternoon, which isn’t the first time a top candidate has felt compelled to distance himself from the party chair. He’s clearly lost the confidence of a significant portion of the RNC too. Are they really going to give him until the midterms?