Guy Benson

Each candidate emphasized the importance of strong fundraising – a point raised most often by Anuzis and Cino, who indirectly suggested that Steele’s two-year, $190 Million haul was inadequate. “There’s fundraising, then there’s everything else,” Anuzis said of his prospective priorities as chairman. Cino said the committee must be prepared to raise at least $400 million in the next cycle in order to compete in the President Obama’s “billion dollar [re-election] campaign.”

Priebus cited strong gains in Wisconsin on his watch as a blueprint for success, touting Badger State Republicans’ pick ups of the Governorship, a Senate seat, two House seats, and both houses of the state legislature last year. He pledged to be a leader “who will work like an absolute dog” to raise sufficient funds and organize a winning operation. He also frequently played to the party’s conservative base, asserting that the RNC is ideally “not in competition with the conservative movement. We are part of the conservative movement.”

Steele downplayed the importance of ideological purity, arguing that the role of the RNC Chairman is not to apply exclusionary “litmus tests” or to stray too far into policy debates. “As I’ve been reminded, [the RNC doesn’t] do policy. We do politics.” Nevertheless, all five candidates were asked to describe their positions on hot-button issues like abortion to traditional marriage – neither of which prompted much disagreement among the group.

The event concluded with a “lightning round” of questions, which proved entertaining, if mostly frivolous. All five candidates endorsed a “party unity pledge,” perhaps better described as the Charlie Crist rule, requiring GOP primary losers to return donations from Republican contributors if they choose to run on another party’s ticket. The panel also reached unanimity on the rectitude of de-funding Planned Parenthood, the superiority of closed primaries, and the electability of Sarah Palin in a general election.

Members of the Republicans National Committee are expected to elect the next chairman by January 14th. Monday’s forum was hosted by Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller, and was co-sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List.

You can watch the video here.

Guy Benson

Guy Benson is's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography