STEELE FINDS ONE GOP BACKER (BUT JUST ONE)…. As the controversy over RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s Afghanistan comments has grown, the volume of criticism from Republican Party figures has become louder. Yesterday, three high-profile GOP senators — McCain, Graham, and DeMint — all offered pointed condemnations of Steele, though they stopped short of calling for his ouster, as other party leaders have done.

Are there any Republican officials willing to defend their party chairman? As it turns out, there is one — but only one.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is praising Michael Steele for suggesting last week the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, a statement that prompted some influential GOP voices to call on him to step down as chairman of the Republican National Committee. […]

“I would like to congratulate Michael Steele for his leadership on one of the most important issues of today,” Paul said. “He is absolutely right: Afghanistan is now Obama’s war. During the 2008 campaign, Obama was out in front in insisting that more troops be sent to Afghanistan. Obama called for expanding the war even as he pretended to be a peace candidate.”

Paul’s criticism of the president seems oddly contradictory — one cannot call for expanding a war and be a “peace candidate” at the same time — but the more important development here is that Steele has won the backing of the one member in his party who vocally opposes the conflict.

Indeed, Paul’s statement went on to praise Steele, adding that the beleaguered RNC chief gives Americans “hope as he speaks truth about this war.”

It’s the kind of support Steele probably doesn’t want. Ron Paul is seen in most Republican circles as something of a nut, and his opposition to both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq puts him sharply at odds with the GOP mainstream (you’ll recall that he was routinely booed during the 2008 presidential campaign). Paul loved what Steele had to say in Connecticut on Thursday, but Steele himself has now completely backed away from his own remarks. In other words, Paul agrees with Steele more than Steele does.

So, will Steele hang on, surviving yet another self-inflicted wound? We’ll likely have a better sense over the next couple of days, but the RNC chairman probably likes his chances at this point — the more time passes, the easier it is to survive. At this point, only one Republican member of Congress has called for his ouster, and no RNC members have. The tide may yet turn again, but for now, Steele may persevere yet again.

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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.