Amid a continuing series of stories about money troubles at the Republican National Committee, Democratic partisans have begun trotting out a new campaign theme. If the GOP can't manage its own finances, why hand it the government checkbook?
"If you are running on fiscal discipline and responsibility and you have the problems the RNC has, it is a pretty big symbol of some problems they'd have [for governance]," the DNC's Jennifer O'Malley Dillon said towards the end of a panel discussion moderated by the Huffington Post over the weekend.
It was the most direct the DNC has been in making such a case. But the committee has been hitting this angle in less overt fashion ever since scandals and controversy began surfacing around RNC Chairman's Michael Steele's fiscal mismanagement. When the RNC was caught spending $2,000 at a lesbian-themed nightclub, the DNC pledged to remind voters that the self-proclaimed "party of fiscal responsibility" had "not only spent money freely and frivolously on useless expenditures... but then tried to hide the debt they financed their spending spree with from the public." When an internal RNC probe found that the committee was actually losing money in its recruitment of big donors, a DNC spokesman scoffed at the notion that Steele could now provide "advice on financial regulatory reform for the whole country."
How well such an argument plays to the voting public at large is an open question. It's difficult to imagine many people flocking to the polls, motivated by concern or embarrassment with internal RNC finances, in part because there is a certain awareness that the staff at the committee hardly is poised to be elevated to positions of power should control of Congress switch hands.
But there is certainly the capacity for the DNC to re-frame the conversation around fiscal management issues. After all, there is a template for this type of charge. During the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama would routinely cite the funds he had raised and the staff discipline he had produced as an example of his prowess as an executive. It didn't exactly dispel the criticism that Obama lacked the requisite managerial experience. But it established a narrative that he could be trusted in that role.
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