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RNC Chairman Candidates Distance Themselves from Michael Steele in Forum

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was a no-show at a forum on Wednesday that featured a handful of candidates hoping to succeed him, but the event amounted to a referendum on his leadership.

It made no difference that Steele's name hardly came up at the event, organized by the Tea Party-affiliated group FreedomWorks and the RNC’s Conservative Caucus. The four contenders who participated openly complained about the party’s lackluster fundraising in 2010 and promised to take steps to revive it heading into the 2012.

Former RNC Political Director Gentry Collins, who has not officially declared his candidacy but took part in Wednesday’s session, estimated that the party would need roughly $425 million to pay for election efforts in the next cycle. He pledged to raise that much.

“Chairman Steele is a fine man, he’s a good man and he’s always been good to me personally,” Collins said, but added, “The party under his leadership failed to raise the major donor money” that it will take to beat President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates two years from now.

“I don't think we can count on 2012 offering the kind of tailwind for Republican candidates as it did in 2010,” Collins said.

The RNC chairmanship will be decided by a vote of the committee's 168 members at the party's January meeting in Washington.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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