HACKS AND FLACKS…. Interesting shake-up at the RNC late yesterday afternoon.

Trevor Francis, the communications director at the Republican National Committee, is leaving his post, an odd mid-cycle departure that suggests some level of turmoil within the GOP’s chief campaign committee. […]

His hiring by the national committee surprised some observers as Francis had never worked with Steele previously. Steele is something of a free agent when it comes to his dealings with the press — often serving as his own press secretary with mixed results.

Steele’s tendency to freelance makes him difficult to manage from a press perspective and, according to sources familiar with Francis’s departure, that tension was part of the reason he decided to step aside.

Francis didn’t quite last a year on the job — he started in March, before abruptly resigning yesterday.

The reasoning behind the shift is still a little murky, though Jonathan Martin reported that GOP insiders believe Steele pushed Francis out the door because the party chairman “didn’t feel he was getting enough credit for the GOP’s electoral success earlier this month.”

Just as interesting was who the RNC tapped as its new communications director: Republican media consultant and CNN analyst Alex Castellanos.

I suppose this isn’t a huge shock. As recently as July, Michael Steele hosted a press conference to trash the idea of health care reform, and read several parts of a Castellanos strategy memo word for word. It stands to reason that the RNC would seek a message/media flack who’s already been writing Steele’s script.

But it’s still a hire that signals the RNC’s misguided direction. Castellanos is, after all, the Republican media strategist responsible for buying ads for private health insurers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reinforcing the obvious impression that the RNC principally represents the interests of big business.

He’s also the far-right strategist responsible for the notorious “White Hands” ad in support of Jesse Helms’ 1990 Senate campaign, generally considered one of the most racist campaign ads of the modern political era.

In other words, if you’ve been shaking your head in response to RNC messaging this year, realize that it’s poised to get a little more offensive going forward.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.