But in another sign of internal tension, Mr. Steele’s supporters have begun citing the precedent of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, e-mailing to members a claim that Mr. Barbour was guilty of the same things Mr. Steele is now being criticized for doing when he headed the RNC in the mid-1990s, The Times also has learned.
The veiled shot at Mr. Barbour, an influential Republican leader, came Monday when Steele supporters circulated a message to other RNC members saying that Mr. Barbour wrote a book in 1996 as national chairman.
Former Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken, who served on the RNC during Mr. Barbour’s two terms as head of the party, told The Times that Mr. Barbour “was a politically astute and effective chairman whom no one ever accused of being less than a full-time chairman.” Mr. Pauken said he has “nothing against Michael Steele personally. I just think that he is in over his head.”
“This is a time when the national Republican Party needs bold, conservative leadership to do battle with the most liberal regime in American history,” he said.
Mr. Steele’s office sought to defuse a potential clash with Mr. Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
“The chairman deeply respects Gov. Barbour’s long record of leadership to the Republican Party. Chairman Steele and Gov. Barbour enjoy a solid working relationship and look forward to coming victories in the fall,” said Mr. McKay.