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Politics

What We Learned: Question Time

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour

March 19, 2011
The money woes stemming from former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele's tenure keep mounting even after his ouster. Current chairman Reince Priebus found out that the RNC "immediately" owes $650,000 in bank fees due to "low interest rates and lower RNC account balance." That comes at a time when Priebus is just beginning to pay back some of the RNC's $21 million in debt and gives him that much more work to do to balance the committee's books before the 2012 presidential campaign begins in earnest. Priebus's biggest challenge: Making the RNC relevant again. This week, bigwigs like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Karl Rove celebrated the one-year birthday of American Crossroads, which stepped in to fund ads when the RNC couldn't afford it. When's the last time the RNC drew such a star-studded lineup to a fundraiser? With a presidential campaign running the show in 2012, Steele's biggest legacy may be undermining the institution he ran. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has been called risk-averse, and he showed this week that he's playing it safe when it comes to his reelection campaign. With $9.2 million in the bank at the end of last year and no opponent in sight, Jindal began airing his first campaign ad this week. Congressional leaders may soon come to realize that appeasing freshmen standing their ground on government spending may be easier than satisfying seasoned Members willing to pick a fight over ideology. Indeed, during the next three weeks policy riders from veteran Members may turn out to be the biggest obstacle preventing Congress from passing a new budget. The special election in New York's 26th District isn't as exciting yet as other Empire State specials have been in past years, but this week several oddities emerged in the race. Republican Jane Corwin has coalesced Republican, Conservative and Independence Party support, but that hasn't warded off other challengers who are determined to run on their own ballot line. Jack Davis, who's run three times before on the Democratic line, is likely to run on his own tea party line despite not having any real prior ties to the tea party. But with millions of his own money behind his bid -- and having received substantial Democratic support before -- he could take away votes from either side. Iraq War veteran David Bellavia will probably be on the ballot too, on his own Federalist line, but he'll have to ramp up his name ID and get funding. And then in the most bizarre twist, the infamous Wisconsin prank caller Ian Murphy will run on the Green Party line. Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul has been selected as the Democratic nominee, but the lingering question is whether the DCCC will put any money into the race.
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