Huffpost Politics
Jason Linkins Headshot

Michael Steele 'Open To' Punishing Stimulus-Backing GOP Senators [UPDATED]

Posted: Updated:

[UPDATED, below.]

During an appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto yesterday, Michael Steele told the host that he was "open to" punishing Senators Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter for their votes on the stimulus package, by withholding RNC monies for their re-election bids. He then said he was "open to everything, baby," because that's his bold schtick: inserting the word "baby" into everything.

[WATCH.]

CAVUTO: Republican Senators Collins, Specter, and Snowe who voted for the stimulus plan in the Senate, what...uhh...retribution will you exact?

STEELE: Look, my retribution is the retribution of the voters in their states. They're going to have to go through a primary in which they're going to have to explain to those Republican voters in that primary...

CAVUTO: I know, but will you, as RNC head recommend no RNC funds being provided to help them?

STEELE: That is something I'll talk to the state parties about and we'll follow their lead.

CAVUTO: So, in other words, are you open to that?

STEELE: Oh, yes, I'm always open to everything, baby, absolutely.

Chairman Steele did not explain whether this beau stratagem comes from the "Party Of New Ideas" file or the "Urban/Suburban Hip-Hop Dance Jamz" file. Seeing as how he was basically goaded into saying these things by a newsman who visibly struggled with the whole concept of Senators voting for things in the Senate, there's a good chance Steele doesn't really know, himself.

UPDATE:

Elena Schor at TPMDC
says Michael Steele is backtracking, baby, backtracking!

...when I asked him about it today -- the RNC chief joined ex-Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) as an official lunch guest of Senate GOPers -- Steele backtracked.

"It's totally up to the state parties," he told me, in a stark contrast to his comment on Fox that he would "talk to the state parties" about withholding funds to the three stimulus-supporting Republican senators.

Schor also reports that "Senate Republican campaigns chief" John Cornyn also expressed support for these incumbents.

But why is Steele backtracking? Maybe he finally realized what 538.com's Nate Silver already knew - Steele's bluster was nothing more than an "idle threat":

In Pennsylvania and especially in Maine, having a (R) by your name is a liability, not an asset. With leaners included, Democrats have roughly a 19-point partisan ID advantage in Maine and 16 points in the Keystone State. Collins, Snowe and Specter get re-elected in spite of being Republican, not because of it.

Theoretically, moreover, there would be little to stop any of them from pulling a Jeffords and caucusing with the Democrats. If one assumes that the principal motivation of each Senator is to win re-election -- and that's never a bad guess -- then the three Republicans must already be wondering whether life might be easier in the Democratic Party (or more likely, as independents who caucused with the Dems). If Steele pushes too far, he risks actuating this outcome.