I’ve been critical of new RNC chair Michael Steele for several gaffes since his election, but the real job of the chair is to organize and raise funds.  We wondered whether the disarray in the RNC would result in lost ground where it counts, but as Politico reported over the weekend, it turns out that Steele outboxed his counterpart, Tim Kaine.  Now it’s Kaine who has to answer questions about competence and performance:

In the wake of the Democratic National Committee’s surprisingly weak February fund raising, Democratic insiders are questioning the unusual arrangement that has Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine serving as a part-time chairman until his term as governor ends next January.

The disappointing results come despite conditions that are ripe for a Democratic Party fund raising windfall: The party faithful are still buzzing from Barack Obama’s November presidential victory, Democrats have large congressional majorities and Obama is riding high in the polls despite a bleak economic picture. On top of that, the party is now in possession of the vaunted 13-million-address e-mail list he used to shatter fundraising records in 2008.

Yet fundraising numbers reported Friday show that in February, Kaine’s first full month as chairman, the Republican National Committee – supposedly plagued by GOP apathy and a chairman who got off to a rocky start, outraised the DNC $5.1 million  to $3.3 million.

Though Kaine plans to devote more time to fund raising now that the Virginia legislative session has ended, he won’t be able to completely throw himself into the money chase – or other party business, for that matter – for another eight months.

Is $5.1 million a good number on its own?  I’d say yes, for a party that just lost a national election and faces off against a popular (for now) Democratic President.  It’s doubly impressive considering the fact that the RNC didn’t have much of a senior staff; Steele canned most of them, and has only now begun replacing them, including the person in charge of fundraising.

Meanwhile, the decision to boost Kaine through a dual role as governor and party chair looks worse and worse.  Kaine isn’t exactly known for fiscal responsibility in Virginia, and he appears to bring those same sensibilities to his part-time job.  Democrats thought that the power of Obama and their lock on power in DC would keep the pump primed on its own, and they’ve had a rude awakening.

The Round One victory is a good sign for Steele, and an opportunity to catch his breath after a terrible start in his new position.  He has backed away from media appearances in the last couple of weeks to focus on organization and staffing.  If he has another couple of months like this, no one will remember DL Hughley by the summer.