Michael Steele: Closet liberal?
In an op-ed published in today's Sun, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker handicaps the race for Republican National Committee chairman and notes a few conservatives apostasies in regard to local boy Michael Steele (for instance, that he owns no guns whatsoever) and a general sense that he "may harbor liberal thoughts."
Having covered our former Lt. Gov. over the years, I can say with assurance that he's not a liberal, but if the people voting for RNC chair are getting the sense that he's not exactly a central casting conservative, that's true too. First is the obvious part, that while he's staunchly anti-abortion and anti-embryonic stem cell research, he's also opposed to the death penalty, a position many people in the GOP don't much like. And when he was running for Senate, he also took pains to distance himself from President Bush (saying we should start talking about withdrawing troops from Iraq, not endorsing Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court seat, criticizing the Hurricane Katrina response, and so on).
But more to the point, he talks about aiding the poor, rehabilitating criminals and helping drug addicts in a way that you don't hear that often from Republicans. I don't mean to say that no other Republicans care about those things, but Steele, with his urban upbrining, grade-school dropout mother, etc., talks about them in ways that I've seen really resonante with audiences that aren't typically Republican, something that might be appealing at a time when the party is trying to expand its base.
Then again, the exit polls suggest that Steele didn't actually get those people to vote for him, so maybe the appeal is limited.