Steele hides the cheese

STEELE HIDES THE CHEESE…. RNC Chairman Michael Steele told conservative columnist Cal Thomas that he thinks he knows why his brief tenure has been so rocky. “The mice who are scurrying about the Hill are upset because they no longer have access to the cheese, so they don’t know what’s going on,” Steele said.

A Steele advisor later said the RNC chairman was referring to Republican “political operatives,” not members of Congress, but a whole lot of observers, including a lot of Republicans, interpreted Steele’s comments differently. As John Aravosis put it, “Sounds like stage two of a two-stage process to get himself fired.”

So, are Steele’s days numbered? There have been quite a few rumors over the last 24 hours about a looming no-confidence vote. Eric Kleefeld considers the landscape:

The question, then, is to what degree the anti-Steele push may be coming from people who were against him to begin with, and thus see an opening, and how much political capital there may be among the rest of the GOP to either keep or dump him.

One thing worth pointing out: Taegan Goddard’s report of an imminent coup indicated that Katon Dawson, the outgoing South Carolina GOP chairman that Steele defeated in a 91-77 vote, may be lining it up. And Dawson has publicly said he’d be doing things differently if he were chairman. And Ada Fisher, the RNC member who has called for Steele’s resignation, was a Dawson-backer during the leadership race.

In the last few days, Steele has gone into damage-control mode, canceling all interviews and hunkering down to focus on hiring staffers at the RNC, something he hadn’t been doing, and which had been attracting the ire of many Republicans — and in at least one case, an on-the-record complaints from a Republican Senator, John Thune of South Dakota.

Of course, it’s not just Thune. Arlen Specter encourages people to ignore Steele, and Newt Gingrich is taking some veiled shots of his own. (For the record, Katon Dawson denies he’s plotting against Steele.)

I’m a little skeptical that Steele would get the boot this quickly. The only thing more embarrassing than keeping him on would be admitting the party made a mistake in hiring him two months ago. Mike Allen suggests RNC fundraising over the next couple of months may matter more than anything else, and that sounds about right to me.

The party officials will tolerate some humiliating television interviews. They won’t tolerate an RNC chairman who can’t raise money because donors perceive him as weak, irrelevant, and embarrassing.