Keep Cash Coming, Steele Tells The GOP

By Matthew Mosk and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 29, 2006

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has been reaching out to key Republican leaders in recent days, urging them to continue directing resources to his U.S. Senate bid.

In an interview yesterday, Steele confirmed what some people close to his campaign have said privately -- that tightening races in other key states have taken priority in the year since high-ranking Republicans persuaded Steele to run, in part by promising the party's lasting financial support.

"I understand that they didn't know what the landscape was going to look like a year away," Steele said. "The dynamics have changed."

Steele said he is confident that he will have the money to run competitively. But sources close to his campaign said concerns about the availability of national money increased recently, especially when national Democrats invested $750,000 in television ads for his opponent, Baltimore area U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, in the days following Cardin's primary victory.

"They've made the commitment to have Sen. [Hillary] Clinton come here, Sen. [Barack] Obama come here. The natural question is: 'This is what these guys are doing; what are you prepared to do?' " Steele said.

Steele's campaign has received considerable support from the national party, which underwrote the cost of identifying likely Steele voters and is paying for staff members to help with get-out-the-vote operations until Election Day.

President Bush, former president George H.W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson appeared at fundraisers organized with the help of the Republican National Committee. Those efforts yielded $1.1 million for Steele's campaign. The committee also contributed $267,000 directly to a joint candidate fund that benefits Steele.

"The commitments made to me have stayed in place so far," Steele said. "It's been an unprecedented commitment so far. My hope is it will be an unprecedented commitment through the end."

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Dan Ronayne said he would not discuss "strategic plans" but added, "It does say a lot about how well Michael Steele is positioned in this race that the [Democrats are] spending serious money in Maryland."

Two sources close to Steele said that the campaign team began to sense that the party's financial commitments had essentially dried up as the senatorial committee has seen more pressing needs arise in states where sitting senators are under fire from Democratic challengers. Both sources spoke on the condition that they not be named, because they were discussing the internal workings of the campaign. The party has paid for ads in three states: Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee.

One of the sources said concern heightened when Steele tried to reach RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman this week and was unable to get a response. A spokesman for Mehlman said the chairman received a call from Steele yesterday and returned it.

Steele said he believes Republicans have the chance to convert African American voters because of a sense that the Democratic Party has taken them for granted -- especially since former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume lost the Senate Democratic primary.

"A lot of people were watching what happened to Kweisi," Steele said yesterday, adding that those voters will want to know, "Will my party be bold in its effort to show that it's commitment is different from theirs?"

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