MICHAEL STEELE’S MAGIC BUS…. The New York Times reported the other day that in the typical midterm cycle, the Republican National Committee would, right about now, be sending large checks to state parties to boost the party’s electoral ground game. This year, however, “the party cannot afford to execute a robust voter turnout program.” What’s more, for “the first time in at least a decade,” the RNC has “reduced the scale of its turnout and targeting programs.”

The party does have the resources, however, to send the RNC chairman on a bus tour.

The road trip, which kicked off last week to much fanfare at RNC headquarters in Washington and concludes on Oct. 29 in Steele’s home state of Maryland, features 143 stops in 117 cities across the continental United States.

But crucially, according to a confidential itinerary of the tour provided to CNN by a Republican source, the bus will be spending almost half its time in congressional districts that are not in play this fall.

Of the 106 candidates Steele is tentatively scheduled to appear with during the trip, 43 are running in districts not listed as “competitive” by two separate nonpartisan political handicappers, Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg.

The coast-to-coast tour has prompted charges from Steele’s foes that the chairman is more focused on getting face-time with committee members than winning back majorities in November. One RNC member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, went so far as to dub the trip “the Michael Steele re-election tour.”

Steele? Using his post for personal gain? Say it ain’t so.

I still think the odds of a Republican takeover of the House are very good, but the party’s chances improve when the RNC invests in voter turnout. Instead, it’s using scarce funds to send the party’s buffoon-like chairman on the road.

One state party chair told CNN the Steele road trip is “a colossal waste of time.” The CNN report also noted several invited guests — including Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley and Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio — chose not to show up when the RNC chairman showed up in their area.

We’ll see what happens in 39 days, but if the election results fall short of expectations on the right, Michael Steele’s name will be reviled in Republican circles for many years.

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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.