In the most favorable political environment for Republicans in decades, GOP chairman Michael Steele ordinarily might be lavished with praise for leading his party to the brink of a historic triumph.

In the most favorable political environment for Republicans in decades, GOP chairman Michael Steele ordinarily might be lavished with praise for leading his party to the brink of a historic triumph.


Instead, he heads an organization that trails Democrats by $15 million in fundraising, is in debt and largely has been overshadowed by third-party groups that, in a few months, have raised almost as much as Republican National Committee has since January 2009.


Frustration with the chairman is evident in some states.


In Ohio, where the governor's race is in doubt and Republicans are challenging some Democratic House members, party chairman Kevin DeWine recently wrote Steele that the $566,900 the RNC had transferred to date "simply pales in comparison" with 2004, 2006 and 2008.


DeWine begged Steele on Oct. 11 for the full amount of $1 million-plus and then another "emergency appeal" of a million on top of that. The RNC this past week sent $284,400 to Ohio as part of a round of $2.8 million to states.


Steele's gaffes and missteps have clouded his nearly two-year tenure. In the past few weeks, he has been content to steer clear of the nation's capital, making a 48-state tour to help GOP candidates. He was in New Hampshire on Friday and was joining Sarah Palin at a Florida rally on Saturday.


If Republicans make major gains on Nov. 2, Steele certainly would claim part of the credit as he considers whether to seek another term at chairman.


"Whether or not I run for a second term has nothing to do with winning on Nov. 2, it has absolutely nothing to do with that," Steele told The Associated Press in an interview Friday in Concord, N.H.


The RNC has raised more than $79 million this year and has spent all of it - and then some. The RNC ended September with about $3.4 million in cash on hand and $4.6 million in debt. The RNC also took out a $2.5 million loan in September.


Steele had started the job with a $23 million surplus. That money is long gone


Still, he may receive favorable reviews from the 168-member central party, in part because of his spending. Steele has doled out cash to some state parties. He's paid the salaries of more than 350 operatives beyond Washington. He's sent money to places that typically don't benefit from the party's donors, such as Democratic-leaning Illinois. That has left Steele with plenty of good will from state leaders.