Until last Tuesday, Gentry Collins was the political director of the Republican National Committee. He spent most of 2010 writing sunny memos to committee members, assuring them the RNC had “the necessary resources to compete” in the last hundred days of the midterm elections,” and was “prepared for the historic opportunity” that existed for Republicans in the fall. On Tuesday, Collins abruptly resigned from his position, after penning what ABC News describes as “a grim picture of party mismanagement.”
Collins now says the RNC’s efforts were underfunded, and state organizations “were not given enough time to plan” around the cash shortfall. He charges the “major donor base” was “allowed to wither,” money was wasted on fundraising instead of being pumped into close races, unpaid bills are piling up, crucial voter turnout programs have been neglected, and direct contributions to candidates were only about 13 percent of the total from the last midterm cycle.
Collins laid the blame for these deficiencies on RNC chairman Michael Steele, who has not yet declared his intention to run for the position again, and will face several serious challengers if he does. One of those challengers might be Gentry Collins. This makes his fiery resignation letter appear self-serving, although it should be noted that if his criticisms are heartfelt, there’s nothing wrong with offering himself as the man to address them. There’s also nothing terribly hypocritical about his previous statements of support for RNC operations. He wouldn’t have been a very good political director if he was flooding the zone with complaints about how terrible everything was, in the run-up to a crucial election. This would have led to the kind of nasty and public power struggle that is much better handled now, with congressional elections behind us, and the election of RNC chair before us.
It’s tough to sell harsh criticism after stunning electoral victories, but Steele’s critics say the RNC had little to do with them. They point instead to missed opportunities in the Senate, and even the House, where Collins says 21 more seats could have been in play. The political shockwave from pushing those GOP House wins closer to triple digits would have been powerful. Also, Steele has inflicted some public-relations wounds on the Party, by making what another of his potential challengers, Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy, described to ABC News as “nutty and careless statements.”
Financial resources and get-out-the-vote efforts will be crucial in the looming 2012 elections. The Democrats won some of those Senate races with highly organized, and often questionable, field operations. It’s tough to compete with Democrat donors ordering their employees to vote, as Harrah’s Casino did for Harry Reid in Nevada. There isn’t much time to get the RNC tuned up and ready for the next big race.
In the Washington Post, Collins’ letter of resignation is called “devastating” by Michigan party chairman Saul Anuzis, who has declared his candidacy for chairmanship of the RNC. Henry Barbour, a comitteman from Mississippi who is a Steele critic, says Collins “makes the most powerful case for Michael not to run for re-election. The details in his memo significantly change the dynamics of the RNC Chairman’s race.” Some question the reasons why Gentry Collins nailed his four-page thesis to the Republican National Committee’s door, but it seems reasonable to consider them dispassionately before tearing them down.