Discuss as:

The final nail in Steele's coffin?

Just as other Republicans begin announcing -- or preparing -- bids to challenge Michael Steele for the position of RNC chair, Politico's Martin reports that one of Steele's top aides, political director Gentry Collins, has quit and skewers Steele in the process.

In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.

“In the previous two non-presidential cycles, the RNC carried over $4.8 million and $3.1 million respectively in cash reserve balances into the presidential cycles,” Collins writes, underlining his words for emphasis. “In stark contrast, we enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100% of the RNC’s $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt.”

The short version of the RNC's 2010 troubles as described by Collins: The committee couldn’t afford to run an independent expenditure ad campaign on behalf of their candidates, didn’t fund a paid voter turnout operation for Senate and gubernatorial races, left its vaunted 72-Hour turnout program effectively unfunded, offered only a fraction of the direct-to-candidate financial contributions they made four years ago and dramatically scaled back its support of state parties.

More:

Collins cites a study that he says found that the GOP could have won the Washington and Colorado Senate races with a better field operation and says that he’d chalk up narrow gubernatorial losses in Connecticut, Minnesota and Vermont to the same lack of funds for a ground game.

The veteran Republican operative also tallies 21 House contests in every corner of the country that he asserts “could have been competitive if not for lack of funds.”

*** UPDATE *** The RNC releases this statement in response to Collins' letter: “For the first time in 16 years the Republican Party held neither the White House or either Chamber of Congress. Despite lacking that fundraising advantage, the RNC was able to raise more than $175 million, over $24 million more than the RNC raised during the entire 1994 cycle and over $36 million more than the DNC raised during the entire 2006 cycle, indexed for inflation. Our resources enabled us to expand the playing field to all 50 states and break records with 45 million voter contacts, over 200,000 volunteers, 360 Victory field offices and 358 Victory field staffers. These accomplishments are shared by our entire team at the RNC as well as volunteers, donors and state parties. Their efforts enabled us to contribute to the most successful elections for the Republican Party in modern times.”