WASHINGTON (CNN) – Several members of the Republican National Committee are miffed at Newt Gingrich for claiming that they’re a small bunch of egomaniacs who need to be coddled by the party chairman.
“Newt needs to take a breath,” New Jersey committeeman David Norcross told CNN.
Gingrich made the assertion on C-SPAN Thursday when asked about a new resolution put forth by some veteran members - including Norcross and RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen of Arizona - that would limit chairman Michael Steele’s ability to control how the committee spends its money.
That resolution has sparked a fresh round of infighting between Steele loyalists on the committee and entrenched members who backed other candidates for the chairmanship and remain skeptical of his leadership.
Defending Steele’s tumultuous start, Gingrich said the chairman might be under fire from some in the committee because he “probably has not yet learned the art of massaging the egos of RNC members.”
“They all think they’re precious, and they all think they should be taken care of, and they all think the job of the chairman, first of all, is to make the RNC members happy,” Gingrich said of the committee’s 168 members.
Tennessee GOP chairwoman Robin Smith objected to that suggestion, saying that “RNC members, on the whole, are committed individuals who sincerely work for the best of our party.”
“Forming circular firing squads only gives aid to the Democrats who are doing quite nicely in undercutting the public trust in our government,” Smith said.
Ada Fisher, committeewoman from North Carolina, said RNC members are not “as ego driven as some professional politicians and pundits would like to believe.”
“Most of us are not receiving large sums from being on television, serving as commentators, giving speeches or writing books, nor do we devote our waking hours to playing politics,” Fisher said in a thinly veiled jab at Gingrich.
Another committee member called the former Speaker’s remarks a “gross generalization.”
But other RNC members sympathetic to Steele sided with Gingrich and defended the chairman’s three-month tenure at the party helm. Steele backers said the new chairman is engaging with state parties and grassroots activists in ways not seen since the GOP was last out of power during the Clinton administration.
California GOP chairman Ron Nehring boasted that the RNC under Steele “is about partnerships with the states, and that’s good news for everyone.”
“Newt is right that RNC members believe they are ‘precious,’” said California committee member Shawn Steel. “However, Michael is more popular than ever. He communicates much more frequently than the prior chair."
North Carolina Republican party chair Linda Daves, who backed South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson during the race for the RNC chairmanship, knocked the members who are now pushing the resolution to regulate Steele’s financial powers.
“I think some of the members should spend more time trying to build the party on the state level and spend less time trying to micromanage the RNC and trying to tear down Michael Steele,” Daves said.
Norcross argued that the good governance resolution is only being proposed to fill the vacuum left by the retirement of veteran RNC comptroller Jay Banning, who was let go by the committee last month after more than 30 years. He said that oversight of the chairman’s purse strings by the committee is nothing new.
“Newt ought to get his facts right,” Norcross said. “My ego does not need to be taken care of, but my Treasurer does.”
A spokesman for the RNC did not respond to a request for comment about Gingrich’s C-SPAN appearance.