White House helps keep GOP chairman Michael Steele in the spotlight

The White House played a role, too.

Steele earned headlines after stating that black political leaders, such as President Barack Obama and himself, are unfairly held to a higher standard because of their race.

The White House quickly responded to the comments, ensuring the latest Steele story stayed alive.

{mosads}Steele started the back-and-forth early Monday morning, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“The honest answer is, yes,” Steele said in response to a question about whether he has a slimmer margin for error than past GOP chairmen because of his race.

“Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do,” Steele said.

Steele’s remarks came a day after Republicans in the House and Senate used the Sunday talk shows to put pressure on the Republican National Committee chairman over RNC spending, which critics of Steele complain has become lavish.

Democrats have reveled in the Steele story, and the White House quickly responded to his remarks on Monday.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called Steele’s remark “silly.”

“I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card, it’s the credit card,” Gibbs added.

Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton immediately put Gibbs’s jab on Twitter, where it was picked up by media across the country.

The RNC chairman has been under pressure since last week, when news broke that the RNC had reimbursed young donors for a nearly $2,000 party at a bondage-themed nightclub in Los Angeles.

That scandal fed into concerns, expressed by RNC members and lawmakers, that Steele was spending too much money.

The RNC has said that Steele had no knowledge of the reimbursement and has fired the official who authorized it. The committee also says it is putting new guidelines in place to ensure accountability when it comes to reimbursements to officials.

Supporters of Steele have noted that the party has won control of three governor’s mansions and upset Democrats in the Massachusetts Senate race since he took the reins of the RNC. Steele also has made an effort to broaden the party’s appeal to minority communities.

Steele on Monday defended his style and his fundraising prowess.

“My view on politics is much more grass roots-oriented … so I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more street-wise. That’s rubbed some feathers the wrong way,” he said.

Steele added that the spending issue has been blown up “larger than it needs to be,” adding, “At the end of the day, I’ve raised more money than the Democrats, [the] same amount of money as [the] DNC in 2010.

“The bottom line is, I hear my donors, I hear our base out there, I hear the leadership. We’re taking steps to make sure we’re even more … fiscally conservative and to make sure the dollars are there when it comes to running campaigns.”

Overspending has long been a complaint of Steele’s critics, especially those in Congress. The first black chairman of the RNC has reportedly raised $96 million since he was elected but has spent much of that sum, leaving the committee searching for more cash as the fall midterm elections approach.

Many top donors have said they will no longer donate to the committee, opting instead to give their money to congressional committees, the Republican Governors Association, or individual campaigns.

Critics also point to Steele’s outspokenness and his tendency to make verbal gaffes. For example, Steele said several months ago that he does not think the GOP can take back the House in the fall — a comment made after leaders in Congress predicted they would do so.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) called for greater financial accountability at the RNC on “Fox News Sunday” but stopped short of calling for Steele’s resignation.

“Well, I’m not in the position of the people who elect Michael Steele to either say he should step down or not. But this kind of thing has got to stop or they won’t get any contributions,” Kyl said. “The people that contribute to the committees, both Democrat and Republican, want to know that their money is well spent for the cause, and it needs to be that way.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is recruitment chairman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said on Fox that the RNC needs to address its “challenges” to earn back the trust of some Republicans.

“Look, I’m very focused on House races, but the RNC does have some challenges that they need to correct. Not only [do] the American people request it but the Republicans requested it as well,” he said.

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