Steele still scrambling

STEELE STILL SCRAMBLING…. As of late Friday, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was facing plenty of calls for his resignation, but none of his detractors was a current office-holder. For the beleaguered party chief to hold on, he’d need Republican lawmakers and RNC members to keep their powder dry.

Unfortunately for Steele, yesterday offered little encouragement.

Rep. Tom Cole, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, became the first GOP lawmaker to call on Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to resign because of his comments questioning the Afghanistan war.

“Frankly, I find Steele’s remarks totally unacceptable,” said Cole (Okla.) in a statement Saturday. “He should apologize and resign. He undercut American forces fighting in the field, politicized further a war that two presidents of different parties have deemed in the national interest and embarrassed the party he purports to lead. It is time for him to go — quickly.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.), a combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, issued a statement describing Steele’s remarks on the war as “irresponsible,” a “disservice to our military men and women,” and reflecting” an unfortunate level of ignorance on such a significant national security issue.” Hunter’s rebuke, however, did not include a call for Steele’s ouster.

There’s little doubt that Steele knows he has a problem, and is once again scrambling to keep his job. CNN reported that the party chief “spent Saturday calling GOP lawmakers and elected party officials to explain his controversial remarks on Afghanistan and to try to build support against calls for his resignation.”

An RNC spokesperson told the network that Steele “has gotten strong support from Republican leaders.” There’s no public evidence that’s true — the number of party leaders offering support for Steele since the controversy broke on Friday morning is still zero.

It leads to a question party officials have had to consider before: are Republicans better off a) forcing their party chairman out four months before critical midterm elections, while dealing with the internal turmoil; or b) keeping Steele, begging him not to be a distraction, and overcoming his incompetence?