Can Republicans Snatch Defeat From Victory In 2010?

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All signs should be pointing up for the GOP. They are the out-party at a time of serious economic woes–85,000 more jobs were shed in December and 661,000 people, or about as many people as live in Baltimore, gave up looking for work. Polls show rising enthusiasm among conservative voters and falling enthusiasm among Democratic voters. Republican Congressional recruitment is good, Democratic retirements and party-switchs are plenty. And the first mid-term election is just around the corner.

But then RNC Chair Michael Steele goes on ABC Radio, and it looks for a moment like the Party of Lincoln, Reagan and Bush is breaking at the seams. Salon’s Alex Koppelman summarizes Steele’s monologue.

During an interview with ABC News Radio Thursday, Steele said of his critics, “I tell them to get a life. That’s old Washington, that’s old ways, and I don’t represent that, and that kills them.” He went on to say, “I’m telling them and I’m looking them in the eye and say I’ve had enough of it. If you don’t want me in the job, fire me. But until then, shut up. Get with the program or get out of the way.”

To be clear, Steele was telling the leadership of his own party to “shut up.” This is the same Steele who announced to Sean Hannity of all people a few days ago that the GOP would not take over the House anytime soon. “Not this year,” he said. This is a bit like Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer showing up at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas to announce that Apple was going to keep making a better stuff for the foreseeable future. Not exactly reassuring.

There are other problems as well. Republican fundraising looks bad compared to Democratic fundraising. As Politico’s Ben Smith and Josh Kraushaar report:

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the key cog in helping to finance GOP campaigns, has banked less than a third as much money as its Democratic counterpart and is ending the year with barely enough money to fully finance a single House race — no less the dozens that will be in play come 2010. . . . The fundraising disparity between the two committees is striking: The DCCC outraised the NRCC this year by more than $18 million, according to FEC figures at the end of November. The NRCC has only $4.3 million left in its campaign account — with more than $2 million in debt — leaving it with just a pittance to fund the dozens of races it hopes to aggressively contest. The DCCC, meanwhile, is sitting on a $15.3 million nest egg (with $2.6 million owed), steadily expanding its cash-on-hand advantage over Republicans throughout the year.

It all makes one wonder: Can Republicans pull off a huge upset and blow their big 2010 opportunity? Place your bets.