May 23, 2011

Steele joins MSNBC

Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and head of the Republican National Committee, will join MSNBC as a regular political commentator, the network announced Monday.

The new position comes after months of speculation about Steele’s next move. A regular guest on the cable news circuit, Steele had previously been in talks with Fox News and CNN.

“It’s an honor to contribute and engage in the dialogue on MSNBC,” Steele said in a statement released by the network Monday. “I look forward to engaging a diverse audience to share insights and analysis about the people, issues, and events shaping America’s future. I’m sure our discussions will be both informative and a bit spirited!”

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Posted by John Fritze at 8:25 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Michael Steele

December 13, 2010

Steele to reveal intentions Monday

With Maryland's GOP leadership race settled, the state's Republicans can look to the national party for intrigue.

The Tribune Washington bureau and the New York Times reported Sunday Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will announce today whether or not he intends to run again for the top post. Steele, the former Maryland Lieutenant Governor, will inform committee members of his decision during a conference call Monday evening.

The Times provides some heavy context suggesting Steele will get out of the race:
[Steele] He has lost the backing of many top supporters, and a coordinated effort to replace him has been under way for weeks. Several leading Republicans have argued that the committee urgently needs to improve its fund-raising and tighten its structure to prepare for the 2012 election. At least six top Republicans have taken steps to run for party chairman. ...

And FOX News, a media outlet with potentially better Republican connections than The Times, is reporting Steele "is expected to" announce his resignation on the call. They cite anonymous sources.

With all of the anti-Steele chatter it is worth noting the attitude toward the current RNC leader was markedly different among Maryland GOP leaders at Saturday's convention in Annapolis.

There outgoing chair Audrey Scott called Steele is "a very special friend to Maryland" who "deserves to be re-elected chair." She credited Steele with providing the local party funds necessary for a first ever state-wide GOTV effort and helping to pull the party from the brink of bankruptcy.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 7:53 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

December 1, 2010

Steele, absent from first RNC chair's debate, attacked anyway

On a stage flanked by the American flag and the yellow rattlesnake banner of the tea party movement, would-be Republican national chairmen took turns Wednesday whacking the current incumbent--Michael S. Steele-who was absent.

The two-hour forum of the conservative caucus of the Republican National Committee attracted four potential candidates for GOP chairman, including Mike Duncan of Kentucky, the last chairman, who lost to Steele two years ago. About 20 of the 168 Republican National Committee members who will choose the new chairman attended the session in a Washington hotel ballroom.

Steele, whose term expires next month, has not declared his re-election intentions and has been expected to enter the race. But some anti-Steele Republicans, noting that one of the leaders of his last RNC campaign is considering a run this time, said the former Maryland lieutenant governor's support is eroding and predict he'll step aside.

Steele's name was seldom mentioned during the forum, co-sponsored by FreedomWorks, an arm of the tea party movement. But his would-be successors went to considerable lengths to say how they would fix shortcomings that have been attributed to Steele.

Most of the criticism revolved around fund-raising and what one of the potential candidates, former RNC political director Gentry Collins -- who broke with Steele after working for him for the last two years---described as a failure to make the most of the Republican wave in last month's midterm elections.

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Posted by Paul West at 3:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

November 18, 2010

Steele-Barbour rivalry explodes

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's effort to assume greater control over the Republican National Committee is entering a new phase with the emergence of one of his closest advisers as a potential rival to Michael S. Steele for party chairman.

Nick Ayers, the 28-year-old director of the Republican Governors Association, is being promoted as a candidate for Republican National Chairman. Steele's term expires in January, and he's expected to seek re-election for another two years.

An anti-Steele faction within the party has been signaling for some time that the Republican Governors Association meeting this week in San Diego would mark a new phase in their efforts to push an alternative.

Now it's happened. As Politico reports, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the incoming RGA chairman and a potential 2012 presidential contender, made a pitch for Ayers.

"In 2012, the RNC is going to play a very, very important role, so whoever they choose needs to be someone who truly has the ability to represent the party and is a highly capable individual from the standpoint of raising money and organization,' Perry said. 'And I know that Nick Ayers is a very capable young man.' Citing a lesson from the Book of Timothy to boost the 28-year-old Ayers, Perry said RNC committee members ought not 'hold youth against anybody."

Perhaps the biggest hurdle Ayers would face is the fact that he's not a member of the RNC, which is considered an advantage in chairmanship fights. During the 2010 campaign, the RGA was widely credited with attracting millions of dollars from big Republican donors who shunned Steele's RNC.

Barbour, well-remembered within the party for his stint as RNC chairman during the 1990s, is a potential 2012 presidential contender. If he's serious about running, that would rule out a return to the RNC job. His nephew, RNC member Henry Barbour, has been a leader of the anti-Steele faction.

To date, only one candidate has formally announced his candidacy, RNC member Saul Anuzis of Michigan, who lost to Steele two years ago.

Posted by Paul West at 9:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Michael Steele

November 16, 2010

Senior aide leaves with blast at Steele

The Republican National Committee's political director quit today with a blistering indictment of Michael Steele's record as national chairman.

Gentry Collins, a highly regarded strategist and one of few top officials hired by Steele to remain on the staff through thick and thin, made it clear that he thinks Republicans will put their recent political gains at risk if Steele remains in power. The former Maryland lieutenant governor has told party officials privately that he's running for a second two-year term in January, though he has not formally announced his candidacy.

"Sadly, if left on its current path, the RNC will not be a productive force in the 2012 campaign to deny President Obama a second term, retain our House majority, and elect a Senate majority," Collins wrote in a five-page "Dear Chairman Steele" resignation letter dated today and sent to members of the party's Executive Committee.

Among the charges in Collins' bill of particulars:

Steele failed to lead as a fundraiser. The RNC allowed its base of big donors "to wither," according to Collins. The smaller contributions that did come in did "not result from personal solicitation by the Chairman" but instead were a product of anti-Democratic sentiment that helped propel Republicans back to power.

Money was wasted on fundraising. Estimates of fundraising costs were closer to 70 cents on the dollar, compared with less than 50 cents on the dollar, historically.

The rest was not spent wisely. "Regrettably, too much of the nearly 30-cents-on-the-dollar not spent on fundraising was spent on things other than winning elections," according to Collins. He did not elaborate but a $2,000 payment for a night at a Hollywood strip club was among the more embarrassing uses of RNC money over the past year and a half.

In a comparison that could undermine Steele's campaign to convince RNC members that he had the interests of state parties at heart, Collins said that the RNC transferred just $13.1 million in cash to state parties for political purposes in 2010, less than a quarter of the amount transferred in 2006, the last midterm election year.

The party will enter the 2012 campaign with higher debt than usual. In 2008, the party carried over $3.1 million from the midterm into the presidential cycle. "In stark contrast," the RNC figures to enter 2012 with its $15 million line of credit tapped out and unpaid bills "likely to add millions to that debt."

Money shortages produced many "significant" shortcomings. Collins concludes that "21 additional U.S. House seats could have been competitive if not for lack of funds." He provided a list of specific districts in 15 states.

And the party made "only a fraction (about 13%) of the direct-to-candidate contributions" it made in the last midterm election campaign.

Fortunately, according to Collins, other Republican entities, including the Republican Governors Association and funds organized by Karl Rove and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, filled the gap created by the RNC's shortcomings.

"I'm hopeful that the members of the RNC and its leadership will meet the challenges of this next cycle and hope the data, facts, and insights above are helpful toward that end," he
concludes in a not very veiled appeal on behalf of the anti-Steele faction inside the RNC.

In response, the RNC issued the following statement, which made no mention of Collins but did highlight the $175 million raised during Steele's tenure, which the party said was more than the RNC raised in 1994 (indexed for inflation), the last time Republicans took back the House, or that the Democratic National Committee raised in 2006, when that party regained the House:

“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.”

To read the entire letter, click on the link after the jump.

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Posted by Paul West at 2:44 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Michael Steele

November 12, 2010

Jeb Bush for GOP chairman?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be appearing on CNN's Sunday talk show this weekend, and if host Candy Crowley wants to make news, perhaps she should ask if he's interested in leading the national Republican Party for the next two years.

Bush, who has already ruled out a run for president in 2012, is being interviewed with his big brother, currently campaigning for his place in history and selling books.

Jeb, on the other hand, is taking a victory lap after Florida Republicans scored big in last week's election and may be looking to raise his political profile.

He has close ties to Marco Rubio, who won election to the U.S. Senate and will be the nation's first Hispanic senator with tea party connections. Meantime, Florida Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott has placed three of Jeb's close political associates and former aides on his transition team.

As the next national Republican race, the one for national committee chairman, takes shape, a member of the anti-Steele caucus, Katon Dawson of South Carolina, has been dropping Jeb's name into conversations about possible alternatives to incumbent Chairman Michael S. Steele, who is expected to seek another two-year term in January.

Dawson said earlier this week he'd had no indication that Bush was interested. Today, he emailed that "a big, big name" could join the chairmanship contest late next week. Asked if the name might be Jeb Bush, he replied enigmatically that "no names surfaced yet."

Pursuing the party job would let Bush re-enter the partisan realm, as memories of his brother's administration fade. He's a prodigious fundraiser--which is what the job of national chairman is really all about--and he could help the party reach out to Hispanics--a high-priority task if Republicans hope to thrive in a rapidly changing America.

One Republican strategist with Bush and Rubio ties, who said he'd heard no talk of a Bush run for chairman, nevertheless said that he loved the idea.

Over the next two years, a generation of potential Republican rivals will be duking it out for the presidential nomination. If one of them unseats Barack Obama, it could well end Jeb's chances of becoming a third President Bush (he'd be 67 in 2020). Otherwise, he could be well-positioned for a run in 2016, when the White House would be wide open again.

Of course, it's by no means clear that he has any interest in the party post. Has he got the patience for the more mundane aspects of the job? Would he consider the position beneath him? Has he got better things to do? And would he be trying to emerge too soon? After all, his mother recently remarked that the country is "Bushed out," as Crowley said in an online posting.

Perhaps we'll get some answers Sunday. It couldn't hurt to ask.

Posted by Paul West at 3:52 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

November 11, 2010

Source: GOP convo offer mulled as inducement for Steele to leave


Advisers to Republican National Chairman Michael Steele hatched a plan to give him a prominent position at the party's 2012 presidential nominating convention if he decided to step aside as head of the Republican National Committee, according to a party official.

The official's story, which could not be independently confirmed, involved Steele's chief of staff, Michael Leavitt, and longtime consultant, Blaise Hazelwood. Concerned that Steele could not be assured of a winning another two-year term when the RNC meets in January, the duo came up with a fallback plan.

They would support Wisconsin Republican chairman Reince Priebus, a Steele loyalist, for the top party post if Steele chose not to run again. In exchange, Priebus would agree to make Steele chairman of the convention.

Priebus has gone to ground after the New York Times published a report this week that he had warned Steele he should consider stepping aside because he might find it tough to win reelection. Priebus, who is also the RNC general counsel, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Priebus is "now playing Hamlet," said the RNC source, adding that the Wisconsin chairman backed away from running after Steele "screamed" at him in a phone call last weekend.

Steele is expected to seek another two years in the job but has not announced his candidacy.

Presiding over the national convention in Tampa will be the highlight of the next chairman's tenure, and it's not at all clear how a deal to give Steele a high-profile convention post would work. It would presumably have to be arranged well before the RNC chooses a new leadership team, including a national chairman, in mid-January.

Another RNC source, who is close to party forces seeking to oust Steele but not actively involved in the behind-the-scenes effort, said that regardless of Steele's convention title, a professional manager would run the event.

Anti-Steele forces claim they are gathering momentum in efforts to block the former Maryland lieutenant governor. But they have yet to coalesce behind a single candidate.

A Republican Governors Association meeting next week in San Diego, the first major post-election gathering of party politicians, could be the vehicle for one or more Steele challengers to surface.

Posted by Paul West at 6:48 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

November 5, 2010

Palin to endorse Steele?

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Is Sarah Palin the secret weapon in Republican National Chairman Michael Steele's re-election campaign?

Some members of the Republican National Committee think so. They expect her to bestow her backing on the former Maryland lieutenant governor's bid for a second term as party chair.

The duo appeared together on Steele's recent coast-to-coast "Fire Pelosi" bus tour. And Steele came to Palin's defense on national television this week, telling critics of the former Alaska governor to "shut up."

Palin's endorsement would be a valuable asset in the coming chairmanship fight and could help counter those who say Steele is the wrong person to head the party going into the 2012 presidential cycle.

Steele has not publicly announced his candidacy, but he's campaigning hard for another two-year term. According to RNC insiders, he's already lined up half the votes he needs.

If Mama Grizzly embraces Steele as her kind of outside-the-Beltway, anti-establishment Republican, the anti-Steele forces are likely to portray it as payback for generous financial help Palin got from the RNC earlier this year.

Some $250,000 from the party treasury was used to pay her legal bills dating from the 2008 campaign. The story got relatively little attention but a Palin endorsement in the chairman's race could give it wider currency.

RNC spokesman Doug Heye has been quoted as saying that Steele and Palin have a "great working relationship." If she runs for president, could it hurt to have the top guy at national party headquarters watching out for her interests?

Posted by Paul West at 5:00 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Michael Steele

September 22, 2010

Michael Steele: On the bus or off the bus?

With midterm elections looming, and control of Congress up for grabs, attention is rightly focused on the men and women running for the House and Senate (and governorships, too).

That has allowed embattled Republican National Chairman Michael Steele to largely slip below radar. Last we looked, he'd left town on a posh (red, naturally) tour bus with "Fire Pelosi" painted on the side.

Meantime, Republican insiders who never warmed to Maryland's former lieutenant governor as party leader continue to sharpen their knives. They've been dejectedly tracking disappointing fundraising numbers coming out of the RNC and plotting Steele's ouster when his current term ends in January.

The latest monthly figures show the Democratic National Committee pulled in more than twice as much money as the Rs ($16.17 million to $7.95 million) during August. Yes, the Dems have an incumbent president to attract cash, and new Republican funding channels have sprung up, allowing disaffected donors to bypass the RNC.

Still, Steele has managed to aggravate the situation. He's pumped national money into local efforts that his critics see, in part, as a campaign to boost his re-election as chairman. Jeff Zeleny has a piece in the New York Times on the impact of the RNC strategy.

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Posted by Paul West at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

September 14, 2010

Steele congratulates Republican winners

Former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, now chairman of the Republican National Committee, has congratulated former boss Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and state Sen. Andy Harris on their primary wins.

“With former governor Bob Ehrlich and Dr. Andy Harris leading the ticket, Maryland voters have selected a tremendous slate of Republicans this election cycle," he said in a statement. "These outstanding Republican candidates will fight to end the out-of-control spending in Annapolis and Washington, D.C., and lower the tax burden for families and small businesses across the state.

"In November, voters will send a clear message that the Democrats’ big-government agenda has failed Maryland and it’s time for new leadership. Marylanders will place our state on a stronger path to economic growth and prosperity by electing these Republican candidates in November.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 11:04 PM | | Comments (0)

August 10, 2010

Steele to raise money for Arundel candidate

Maryland House of Delegates candidate Cathleen M. Vitale says Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele will attend a fundraiser for her next week in Severna Park.

The outspoken GOP leader -- who most recently stoked controversy by saying the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was "a war of Obama's choosing" -- has made few public campaign stops in Maryland this year.

Along with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Steele headlined the annual Maryland Republican Party fundraiser in Linthicum, but the onetime lieutenant governor hasn't played a prominent role in former partner Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s new gubernatorial bid. The RNC did not make Steele available to comment last week when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Ehrlich's main Republican opponent, Brian Murphy, in the GOP primary.

Vitale, a Republican member of the Anne Arundel County Council, attributed the chairman's support to their longtime friendship. Before Steele was Ehrlich's lieutenant governor, he was chairman of the state GOP.

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Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Michael Steele

July 16, 2010

Marylanders give Steele 19 percent approval rating

Only one in five Maryland voters has a favorable opinion of Michael S. Steele, the former lieutenant governor who now chairs the Republican National Committee, according to a survey released this week by Public Policy Polling.

More than half, meanwhile, have an unfavorable opinion of Steele, and he would lose a hypothetical rematch of his 2006 Senate race with Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin by 30 percentage points, according to the survey. Based in Raleigh, N.C., Public Policy Polling is headed by Democratic pollster Dean Debnam.

Opposition to Steele is particularly strong among fellow African-Americans, the demographic he was supposed to help attract to the Republican Party. Just 6 percent have a favorable opinion of him; 73 percent have an unfavorable opinion. In a rematch of the Senate race, African-Americans would vote for Cardin by an 89-3 margin.

The telephone survey of 569 Maryland voters was conducted July 10-12, before Steele issued his statement Wednesday defending Tea Party activists from accusations of tolerating racism but after his comments about President Barack Obama and the war in Afghanistan.

Those comments, in which Steele described the eight-year-old war as “a war of Obama’s choosing” and said it was not “something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” led to calls from the conservative Weekly Standard and on for his resignation as RNC chairman.

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Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:00 AM | | Comments (14)

July 14, 2010

Steele defends Tea Party from racism charge

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele is defending the Tea Party movement from accusations of racism.

Delegates to the annual convention of the NAACP this week accused Tea Party activists of tolerating bigotry and approved a resolution condemning extremism within the movement.

"We felt the time had come to stand up and say, 'It's time for the tea party to be responsible members of this democracy and make sure they don't tolerate bigots or bigotry among their members,'" Ben Jealous, president of the Baltimore-based organization, said before the debate, according to the Associated Press.

"We don't have a problem with the tea party's existence,” Jealous said. “We have an issue with their acceptance and welcoming of white supremacists into their organizations."

Steele, the first African-American to head the Republican National Committee, issued a statement Wednesday about what he described as “recent statements claiming the Tea Party movement is racist.” He said such statements “are not only destructive, they are not true.”

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Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 5:33 PM | | Comments (40)

July 2, 2010

Steele tries to clarify Afghanistan remarks

Worth noting in the controversy around Michael S. Steele’s comments about the war in Afghanistan is that he was addressing a Republican fundraiser in Connecticut. The state, home to many workers who commute to New York, lost 65 residents on Sept. 11, 2001.

Maryland’s former lieutenant governor on Friday is explaining remarks from the fundraiser this week in Noank, Conn., in which he described U.S. action in Afghanistan as “a war of [Democratic President Barack] Obama’s choosing,” and said it was not “something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

The U.S. initiated the war in Afghanistan in late 2001 in direct response to the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia. While the action, which was aimed at rooting out the leadership of Al Qaida and their Taliban hosts, enjoyed broad bipartisan support both among elected officials and the public at large, it was ordered by Republican President George W. Bush, three years before Obama was elected to Congress.

Steele goes on to say that Obama "was trying to be cute by half," by "flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan."

"Well, if he's such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that's the one thing you don't do – is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?" Steele asks. "Everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan."

The best guess is that Steele is referring to Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan, following his campaign promises to shift military focus away from Iraq and toward Afghanistan. This approach has also won the broad support of Republicans in Congress, whose main concern has been whether Obama is committed to seeing it through.

Whatever Steele meant – he also described the events surrounding the resignation last week of Gen. Stanley McChrystal “comical” – his comments have drawn quick criticism, mostly from Democrats, but also from at least one prominent conservative. William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, has called for Steele’s resignation.

“Your tenure has of course been marked by gaffes and embarrassments, but I for one have never paid much attention to them, and have never thought they would matter much to the success of the causes and principles we share,” Kristol writes. But this time, he writes, is different:

Continue reading "Steele tries to clarify Afghanistan remarks" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:48 PM | | Comments (3)

June 21, 2010

Steele's RNC edged out by DNC in latest money chase

The latest fundraising numbers by the national party committees showed the Republican National Committee falling just short of the Democratic National Committee in total receipts for May.

The DNC collected $6,602,893, or about $146,000 more than the RNC's $6,456,892.

Republican finances became a focus of attention during the spring, when the RNC was embarrassed by the use of party funds at a West Hollywood topless joint. Chairman Michael Steele rolled several heads at national headquarters in Washington in response.

The latest figures confirm that both parties are laying out nearly as much as they are taking in. The Republicans had net operating expenses of $5,648,666.38, according to their Federal Election Commission filing. The Democrats spent even more in May: $6,175,229.27.

Democrats also were carrying more than $3 million in debt at the end of May, an increase from the prior month. The RNC reported that it owed about $760,000, mainly bills to pollsters, media firms and other vendors who were paid in June.

Democrats hold an edge in reported cash-on-hand, $14,491,048 to the GOP's $12,581,336.91. However, if debts are taken into account, the Republicans have the advantage, with a net of $11.82 million to the Dems' $11.46 million.

Both parties saw fundraising slump from April, when the Dems pulled in $10.4 million and the Republicans collected $6.86 million.

Posted by Paul West at 12:20 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Michael Steele

June 11, 2010

Ehrlich teases Steele, no word on successor

There was much buzz at last night's Maryland Republican Party dinner about who former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. might choose as a running mate in his bid to reclaim the office.

But on this night, he buddied up to his former lieutenant governor, chatting with Michael S. Steele, who has had a rocky tenure as head of the Republican National Committee, paying him respect in front of a crowd of about 700 and teasing him about his sports inabilities. ("I'm finesse. He's just football," Steele said of the jock-gap between him and Ehrlich.)

Check out our print story on the dinner.

Before the dinner at BWI Marriott, Ehrlich spoke briefly with reporters and declined to answer questions about his choice for lieutenant governor, though he said the vetting process has begun. He said there are "more than a few" candidates on the list.

Later, as he introduced featured speaker Mitt Romney, Ehrlich joked about the running mate selection process, saying "applications are available in the lobby on the way out."

Continue reading "Ehrlich teases Steele, no word on successor" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:09 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010, Michael Steele

June 10, 2010

GOP: The Rs raise money tonight near BWI

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele posed for photographs with Maryland’s Republicans at the BWI Airport Marriott just before the party’s annual Red White and Blue dinner. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also mixed with local GOP supporters who paid at least $200 per ticket.

The mood was elevated by a Rasmussen poll that came out a few hours ago putting the governor's race at a dead heat.

Party chair Audrey Scott said in the coming months the party will “challenge one party rule in Maryland.” She brought the crowd to their feet when she announced that the once bankrupt party is now solvent.

State party officials said they sold 700 tickets and raised $200,000 for the state GOP. A Democratic fundraiser last month drew 900 people and raised $450,000. We'll update after Steele speaks ... he just started.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

May 10, 2010

Steele Attacks Kagan Over Thurgood Marshall Comment


Republican National Chairman Michael Steele is calling Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to account for her comments in support of Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice on the nation's highest court.

Steele's statement is attracting plenty of attention from liberal bloggers, who never miss a chance to whack the Republican Party's first black chairman.

But a prominent Republican blogger, conservative scholar Abigail Thernstrom, is critical, too, advising Steele and the RNC staff to "try thinking before you speak." Steele's words are also provoking private concern from Republican strategists, who question the wisdom of attacking Kagan for words she wrote praising Marshall after his death in 1993.

Steele's statement, issued minutes after Obama announced his intention to nominate Kagan, said that Senate Republicans need to would raise "serious and tough questions" about her legal philosophy. Included in that, Steele said, is "her support for statements suggesting that the Constitution 'as originally drafted and conceived, was "defective."'"

Kagan, a Supreme Court law clerk for Marshall, was extremely familiar with the Baltimore-born jurist's views on the Constitution, which he regarded as a "living document." His liberalism clashed with the ideology of conservative "originalists," such as Justice Antonin Scalia, who say that in rendering decisions on the law of the land they consider the Constitution's meaning and language at the time it was written.

Marshall, addressing the issue at length in a 1987 speech commemorating the bicentennial of the Constitution, used the word "defective" to refer to the government devised by America's 18th century founders. In particular, Marshall discussed the Constitution's deliberate omission of equal rights for women and black slaves. That is the sentiment Steele singled out for criticism in his statement about Kagan.

Here's the portion of what Marshall had to say about defects of the U.S. government at its founding (a link to his entire remarks can be found on Page 2 of this posting):

"I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever "fixed" at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite "The Constitution," they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago."

RNC Communications Director Doug Heye takes issue with the headline on this post. He says it's inaccurate to say that Steele was attacking Kagan.

Heye's response is on the next page, below Steele's complete statement, which was included in the original post.

Continue reading "Steele Attacks Kagan Over Thurgood Marshall Comment" »

Posted by Paul West at 6:30 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Michael Steele

May 5, 2010

More Departures from Steele's Communications Shop

It could be getting lonelier soon at the Republican National Committee's communications shop. Three more staff members have apparently left or are in the process of doing so.

LeRoy Coleman, RNC director of media affairs, RNC press spokeswoman Sara Sendek and director of surrogate operations Amber Lyons are moving on, according to a well-placed Republican source.

Repeated efforts to reach RNC press officers for confirmation and comment over the past two days have been unsuccessful.

Coleman, at least, isn't out the door yet; he picked up his line Wednesday afternoon, then immediately begged off with a promise to call back in 30 seconds. We're still waiting for that call.

Lyons and Sendek couldn't be reached.

Communications has been a particularly difficult place to work during Republican National Chairman Michael Steele's roller-coaster tenure at party headquarters in Washington.

His initial hire as communications director, Trevor Francis, left in November. He was supposed to be replaced, at least in part, by GOP media consultant Alex Castellanos.

But Castellanos' stint as an unpaid Steele communications adviser didn't work out. Castellanos became disillusioned and parted company with the chairman. By last month, he was publicly calling for Steele to be replaced.

RNC National Press Secretary Gail Gitcho left in January to become communications director for newly elected Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

She was replaced by Doug Heye, a Republican campaign veteran, who took over as RNC communications director in February.

Heye, a spokesman in Steele's 2006 Senate campaign in Maryland, did not respond to a request for comment about confirmed the latest departures.

Posted by Paul West at 4:45 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 8, 2010

NC GOP Chairman Calls on Steele to Resign

The chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party has become the first member of the Republican National Committee to call on Michael Steele to step down as party chairman in the wake of a spending scandal.

Tom Fetzer, in a two-page letter to Steele dated Thursday, said that "the best service" Steele could render the party would be to "graciously step aside and allow the party to move on from this current quagmire."

His demand draws fresh attention to an episode, now nearing the end of its second week, that Steele had hoped was behind him.

An RNC spokeswoman, Katie Wright, responded that “Steele has maintained broad support from RNC committee members, who have been pleased with the proactive measures put in place for greater accountability. Most importantly the RNC remains focused on raising money and winning elections in North Carolina and across the country this fall."

Fetzer becomes the first RNC official to call for Steele's resignation this month, but it is not the first time that a national committee member has called for Steele's head. In March, 2009, an RNC member--also from North Carolina--said that Steele should step aside because of "eroding confidence" in his leadership.

That demand in 2009--from Ada Fisher, one of the three black members of the RNC--came after a series of early verbal stumbles by Steele. The effort to oust him went nowhere.

Most Republicans have said that it is unlikely that Steele will be forced out before his current term ends early next year.

Continue reading "NC GOP Chairman Calls on Steele to Resign" »

Posted by Paul West at 6:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 6, 2010

Updated: Steele Off Message, Anderson Gone

Perhaps no one, other than Bob Ehrlich, did more to advance Michael Steele's national career than Maryland strategist Curt Anderson. That makes the Crofton consultant's decision this week to cut his ties with Steele particularly stunning.

Curt and his brother Wes Anderson run a highly regarded Republican media consulting shop, On Message Inc. They crafted the memorable 2006 campaign commercials that featured Senate candidate Steele and a cute Boston Terrier, The ads were bright spots in a losing effort and drew national attention for their creativity. (Click on the above example)

Curt Anderson went on to play a central role in Steele's upset campaign for Republican National Chairman last year. His firm was rewarded with more than $480,000 in RNC work under Steele.

But Monday's departure of Steele's chief of staff, Ken McKay, was apparently the final straw for Anderson, who took the highly unusual step of renouncing further business with Steele's RNC. He did not immediately respond to messages left at his office and on his cellphone.

Anderson was instrumental in bringing McKay on board at party headquarters last year. At the time, the hiring of McKay was seen as a reassuring sign, especially by those who doubted that Steele was up to the job and were wondering if he would even be able to attract first-rate help.

In a statement, Anderson called McKay's departure "a huge loss for the Republican Party.” Anderson said McKay had "steered the party through very successful elections last fall that have given us tremendous momentum. He’s a great talent."

Anderson went on to say: "Given our firm’s commitments to campaigns all over the country we have concluded it is best for us to step away from our advisory role at the RNC. We have high personal regard for the Chairman and always have; we wish him well.”

The severing of relations with Steele's RNC by Anderson was surprising--not only the decision to forgo a lucrative client but what seemed to be a clear vote of no confidence by one of those who helped make Mike Steele.

A Republican insider said that Anderson "checked out" because he "decided there is nothing he could do about the guy." He said that "Curt was getting in Steele's face" and Steele was increasingly resistant to his advice.

The insider noted that Alex Castellanos, another leading strategist who was brought in as a special adviser, similarly walked away from Steele.

They have been replaced by what this Republican termed "a team of enablers," including veterans of Steele's 2006 Maryland campaign.

At the same time, this Republican--a former party official who spoke on condition of anonymity--said that Steele was justified in replacing McKay because the problems at RNC headquarters--including the party's budget deficit and spending embarrassments--are the staff chief's direct responsibility.

Continue reading "Updated: Steele Off Message, Anderson Gone" »

Posted by Paul West at 10:35 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 5, 2010

Steele: Not budging

Breaking a week-long silence, Republican National Chairman Michael Steele said Monday morning that he's staying put in his job, despite a fresh round of criticism over the way money is handled at party headquarters.

George Stephanopoulos put the question to Steele on "Good Morning America," after quoting a recent poll of party insiders, who overwhelmingly concluded that the former Maryland lieutenant governor is a liability to his party and needs to go.

"Are you going to go?," asked the ABC breakfast show host.

"No," replied Steele. "And I understand that, but, of course, they've been saying that since the day I got the job."

Steele said he has been putting "great controls in place" on finance at RNC headquarters and on the party's money-raising operation.

"Those numbers that they talk about, you know, I'm not staying in fancy hotels and the Four Seasons and flying around in corporate jets," he said.

It was the first time that Steele or one of his spokesmen has offered that rebuttal since publication of an online article, last Monday, about lavish spending by the RNC.

Without the White House or control of Congress to help leverage contributions from big donors, Steele said he has ordered the party to scale back the sorts of events that "major donors are used to."

High-dollar donors have been among Steele's harshest critics. Since he took over as chairman last year, the RNC has relied much more heavily on smaller donors, raising money online, through the mails and by phone, as well as at receptions and other in-person events.

"I think a lot of this has really kind of taken it a lot further down the road and blowing it up larger than it needs to be," said Steele. "At the end of the day, I've raised more money than the Democrats in 7 out of 12 months. I carry over the same amount of money as the DNC into 2010. We had a very good March. We'll have a very good April.

"But," he went on, "the bottom line is, I hear my donors. I hear our base out there. I hear the leadership. And we're taking steps to make sure that we're even more--how shall we say?--fiscally conservative in our spending. And certainly making sure that the dollars are there when it's time to run our campaigns."

Steele also riffed on some themes from previous interviews. He said he is being subjected to a double standard, because he's black, and again compared himself to President Barack Obama.

Stephanopoulos (reading from an emailed question by a viewer): "Do you feel that as an African-American you have a slimmer margin for error than another chairman would?"

Steele: The honest answer is 'Yes.'

Stephanopoulos: Why is that?

Steele: It just is. Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. We all--a lot of folks do. I mean, it's just a different role for, you know, for me and for others to play. And that's just the reality of it."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, asked about Steele's remark, said the Republican chairman's problem "is not the race card, it's the credit card.'' Check this report, which includes a video clip of Steele on ABC, at "The Swamp."

Steele also said that, despite having spent virtually his entire life in the Washington, DC area, he's not a DC insider.

"My view on politics is much more grassroots oriented. It's not old-boy-network oriented," said Steele, whose career in politics took off when his old friend Bob Ehrlich tapped him as his running mate in 2002. "And so I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more streetwise, if you will. That's ruffled some feathers the wrong way."

He concluded: "At the end of the day, I'm judged by whether I win elections and I raise the money. That's a standard I'm very comfortable with and look forward to meeting in November."

The nationally televised remarks were the first by Steele since a mini-scandal erupted over nearly $2,000 in "meals" that the RNC spent at a topless night club in West Hollywood. He wasn't asked this morning why he didn't speak in public for a full week about the incident at the bondage-themed club, but one online commenter has speculated it was because Steele was tied up.

Posted by Paul West at 10:07 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 2, 2010

Steele's Worst Week Ever

Michael Steele has been chairman of the Republican National Committee for the past 60 weeks. One of them had to be his worst. This is it.

Capping five consecutive days of whack-a-Mike was a highly critical column on Friday morning's Wall Street Journal "Opinion" page. One of the most prominent, reliably conservative, pro-Republican venues in America thus became the latest to pile on Steele, with a Journal staff commentator administering a firm thumping of the former Maryland lieutenant governor.

Kimberly Strassel, author of the Potomac Watch column, describes this week's RNC spending scandal as "the latest evidence that Mr. Steele has yet to figure out his role."

She adds: "That confusion could mean the difference between a decent GOP midterm victory and a big one."

The Journal columnist went back over some of the stumbles of Steele's first year in office, including his perception of himself as a "shadow president," his "swollen entourages" and "luxury spending."

That's "a problem," she explains, "not just because it is burning up vital money, but because it threatens the RNC's ability to capitalize on donors in the crucial months ahead."

"How the RNC performs could be the difference between a 20-seat House pickup and a switch to a Republican majority," concludes Strassel.

More than a few Republican insiders would argue with her conclusion. Anyway, party donors are free to give to the national Republican House, Senate and Governors' campaign committees. There are multiple ways to deliver money to Republican candidates and campaigns if contributors choose to shun the RNC.

Strassel also points out that dumping Steele as chairman "brings its own problems."

She might have added that firing him is also virtually impossible, and hard to imagine, unless and until another scandal erupts.

Under party rules, Steele enjoys nearly air-tight protection in his job, which pays $223,500 a year (plus those perks like private jets and limos).

To oust a chairman would take the votes of two-thirds of the RNC's 165 members. And that brings us back to Steele's week.

He began it in Tampa, Florida, where he was accompanying 12 RNC members on one of the cushiest jobs in American politics: picking the site of the party's next presidential nominating convention.

Steele personally chose the site-selection committee members for this princely plum. The lucky RNC members get to travel to all of the cities that are competing to become the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

At each stop, they spend several days being wined and dined. Then they move on to the next suitor. Typically, they, or other RNC members chosen for follow-up committee duty, can expected to pay return trips to the winning convention site, where, again, they'll be treated like visiting royalty.

In recent days, Steele and Company have been to Phoenix and Tampa. Steele was unexpectedly absent from a press conference with the RNC members that took place on Monday, the same day the scandal broke about RNC spending at a lesbian-themed topless joint in Hollywood. Next up for the hard-working RNC selection committee: a visit to Salt Lake City next week.

National party conventions are among of the biggest reasons that activists compete to serve on the RNC (or its Democratic counterpart).

Committee members get prime seats inside the convention hall, hard-to-get hotel rooms (or suites) in the convention city and lots of opportunities to rub shoulders with their party's most important politicians. In many cases, they are official delegates, with a formal vote to cast on the choice of their party's nominee for president, which prompts another round of intense wooing and partying.

Care and feeding of national committee members is one of a chairman's most important jobs. In Steele's case, it's a matter of survival and a top priority.

It helps explain one of his recent controversial moves: convening the RNC's winter meeting at a Waikiki Beach resort in January. The unusual decision, at a time of national recession, was actually payback for members of the RNC's "Island caucus," whose votes put him over the top in the 2009 chairman's race.

Each of the following U.S. territories and affiliates get three RNC members--American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico--the exact same allotment as Maryland and 49 other states and the District of Columbia.

National committee politics, it's been said, turns out to be more like high school politics than real politics. In Steele's case, satisfying the needs of 55 fellow RNCers is virtually all he needs to do to keep his job, through the good weeks and the bad.

Posted by Paul West at 11:30 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 1, 2010

Steele, Kaine: Both Parties Living High on the Hog?

For the fourth day in a row, Democrats are gleefully hammering away at the Republican National Committee's payment of $1,946 for "meals" at a West Hollywood strip club, which led to the firing of a committee staffer and continues to focus unwanted attention on National Chairman Michael Steele's management of the RNC.

The latest jab, in the form of an MSNBC YouTube clip being circulated by the Democratic National Committee, highlights criticism of Steele by Tony Perkins, a leading social conservative. Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, is advising members to stop donating to the RNC until the national party gets its financial act together.

"We're simply telling folks, 'Look, don't give your money there,'" said Perkins, whose appearance on the liberal network was interspersed with file footage of Steele and a private jet coming in for a landing.

Perkins pointed to "what appears to be excessive spending (by the RNC) at a time of economic hardship for most of the country." It is a criticism that has trailed Steele for months, as The Baltimore Sun reported back in January.

Back then, the issue was Steele's decision to convene the RNC's winter meeting at a Hawaiian beach resort. Now it's his spending for private jets and limos, and the infamous night for young donors at a lesbian-themed club (which Steele did not attend).

After suffering perhaps the worst publicity of Steele's 14-month tenure as chairman, RNC officials responded, belatedly, this week by pointing out that Democrats haven't been exactly pinching pennies under their national chairman, Tim Kaine.

“The DNC spent at least $2,204,000 for luxury hotels and caterers,” Doug Heye, the RNC's top spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.

Thursday afternoon, a new posting by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, a DC watchdog on money in politics, attempts to sort out the facts. It concludes that the national committees of both major parties "sometimes spend lavishly on travel, catering, resorts and hotel accommodations."

On its informative Open Secrets website, it invites any interested parties to dig into the fine print and do their own investigating. The same information can also be accessed (in the form of searchable PDF files) from the original source, the Federal Election Commission.

As presented by the Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats indulged their taste for the good life at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and the Beverly Hills Hilton, three of the tonier hostelries in America.

Steele got whacked this week for spending RNC money at the Beverly Hills Hotel. A room there will set you back a minimum of $390 (taxes not included) for the night of April 15 (chosen at random but coincidentally the day your taxes are due). The same night at the Beverly Hills Hilton, the DNC's hotel choice, goes for $345, though you can get a non-refundable rate of $231.

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Posted by Paul West at 5:50 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Michael Steele

November 3, 2009

Steele for president in 2012? Yes, he might


If Republican candidates roll to big victories in today's elections, it could move at least one Republican closer to a 2012 presidential run: National Party Chairman Michael S. Steele.

For some time, the former Maryland lieutenant governor has been open to a presidential try. The scuttlebutt from folks who work at national party headquarters is that he thinks he’s going to be a presidential candidate in 2012.

A Republican turnaround after back-to-back defeats in the last two elections could advance Steele's presidential ambitions. He'd be a distinct longshot as a candidate; but if he outperformed expectations, there's no way of knowing where, exactly, he might wind up.

Today, Steele is making the rounds in New Jersey and Virginia, two Barack Obama states that Republicans hope to win in the only governor's elections of 2009.

Tonight, Steele will be all over cable TV. On Wednesday morning he plans to declare victory at a rare Washington press conference.

National party chairmanships aren't typical launching pads for a presidential candidacy (just the opposite in the case of Howard Dean, whose election as head of the Democratic National Committee was a consolation prize after his 2004 primary campaign flamed out).

Steele's army of critics, in both major parties, would no doubt say that he is a potential president only in his own mind. But that's where presidential runs start in modern politics.

And the notion of a Steele for President campaign isn’t completely far-fetched, at least to Steele.

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Posted by Paul West at 4:51 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Michael Steele

October 9, 2009

Steele on Obama Nobel peace prize: "Unfortunate"

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, who criticized President Barack Obama's failed overseas sales trip on behalf of the U.S. Olympic Committee, issued a grudging statement this morning in response to the president's latest, and unexpected, global laurel: the 2009 Nobel peace prize.

“The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’ It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights," Steele said.

"One thing is certain – President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action,” added the former Maryland lieutenant governor.

Other Marylanders were more generous with their praise.

Democratic Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, in Athens, Greece, where he spoke about climate change to a meeting of European parliamentarians, said the award "represents international support for a world leader to pursue human rights concerns and advocate for peace around the globe. This award is a testament to the power of diplomacy and it serves as a reminder that the light of cooperation can be rekindled through open dialogue and a willingness to concentrate on the values shared by different peoples rather than our differences."

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Posted by Paul West at 12:31 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Michael Steele

October 2, 2009

Obama sacked; Steele piles on...carefully


It is a cardinal rule of politics: Never murder your opponent when he's in the process of committing suicide.

But sometimes, the opportunity is simply too good to pass up.

Is that the case with Barack Obama's failed effort to bring the 2016 summer Olympics to his hometown?

Some Republican strategists warned, in the aftermath of the International Olympic Committee's shootdown of Chicago, that it would be a mistake to pile on. But they seemed to be in the minority.

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, who had been preparing for Obama to lose, was only too pleased to rub it in, though he did it in a careful way.

“While I am disappointed with the IOC's decision, I look forward to the president returning stateside so that he can refocus his efforts on the growing unemployment crisis that was highlighted by today’s monthly jobs report," he said in a statement. "Our country needs the president’s undivided attention on the urgent issues facing American families today: rising unemployment, soaring health care costs, winning the war in Afghanistan and dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat.”

Separately, the Republican National Committee issued a "research briefing" with headlines like "Obama Prioritizes Chicago Olympics Bid Over War In Afghanistan" and "Weighing His Priorities, Obama Chose To Spend His Time on Olympics Bid."

Also: "Obama's Time Commitment To Lead Military Commander In Afghanistan? Three Meetings In Four Months. . . . Obama's Time Commitment To Olympics? 5 Video Tapes, New White House Office, South Lawn Event, Lobbying Efforts At UN And G-20, Numerous Phone Calls, And $112,000 Flight To Copenhagen With 2 Cabinet Officials And A U.S. Senator."

Earlier this week, Steele criticized the president's overseas lobbying trip. He called it unnecessary, though he pointedly refused to call it a mistake.

The Republican chairman kept up the criticism as the IOC vote neared. Earlier today, reacting to the latest increase in U.S. unemployment figures, Steele took note of the president's Danish adventure.

"As President Obama travels to Copenhagen to bring the Summer Olympics to his hometown seven years from now, Americans back home are increasingly concerned they won't have a job seven months from now as they see more and more of their neighbors and friends lose jobs today," the former Maryland lieutenant governor said in a statement issued hours before the IOC voted Chicago out in the first round.

Once Chicago got cut, top Obama advisor David Axelrod leapt onto the cable news nets, trying to spin his boss out of the situation. The Democratic National Committee circulated a Politico item that asked whether the Republicans were rooting against America.

Everyone could probably have saved their breath. Whatever damage had occurred was already done.

Seemingly minor incidents can have outsized political impact on the reputation of a new president. Will this be one of those moments for Obama?

The last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, got stung for a long while over an expensive haircut he received aboard Air Force One on a runway at Los Angeles International Airport, several months after taking office. Media reports at the time claimed that air traffic had been delayed as a result, though, in fact, that wasn't the case.

However, the widely publicized incident helped deepen negative impressions of Clinton, who was already viewed by some of his critics as arrogant and self-indulgent.

Obama's Copenhagen debacle could also have similarly negative ramifications. Or not.

You make the call.

Continue reading "Obama sacked; Steele piles on...carefully" »

Posted by Paul West at 4:29 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Michael Steele

September 29, 2009

Steele: Obama Olympics trip "not necessary" -- but not necessarily a mistake

Republican National Chairman Michael S. Steele said today that President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Copenhagen is "nice" and "a noble idea," but not essential business for the president.

Steele began a brief telephone news conference by criticizing Obama's lack of focus on the biggest problem facing the country: weakness in the economy, which Steele said is still in recession.

The former Maryland lieutenant governor said he had watched Obama push an economic stimulus plan, then "lurch into cap-and-trade, and then into health care," and now he's "pitching the Olympics in Copenhagen."

In answer to a reporter's question, Steele said it was "a noble idea for the president to pitch his home city, Chi-town" and that America "would be more than honored to host the Olympics." But Steele went on to say that "at a time of war" and recession, "this trip, while nice, is not necessary for the president."

Obama plans to leave Washington on Thursday in order to personally lobby members of the International Olympic Committee the next morning at their decision-making meeting in Denmark.

The overnight trip is seen as a risky political gamble for a president currently enmeshed in a number of difficult issues, from pushing an embattled Democratic health care plan through Congress to combatting Iran's nuclear ambitions and choosing a future course for the war in Afghanistan.

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Posted by Paul West at 11:32 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Michael Steele

September 24, 2009

Fundraising success yields positive headlines for Steele


A surge of campaign cash in August, the month that conservatives stormed Democratic town hall meetings, is generating upbeat media coverage for the Republican Party and national Chairman Michael S. Steele.

The latest good news follows recent predictions that Republicans will make significant gains in the 2010 elections, still more than a year away. As for 2009, polls show the potential for Republican pickups in both of this year's governor's races, in Virginia and New Jersey.

Since Steele took charge at Republican Party headquarters in late January, the RNC has reported $6 million more in total receipts than the Democratic National Committee. A report on Steele's "fundraising savvy" in The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, noted that the national party is using the cash advantage to outspend its Democratic counterpart in the Virginia governor's contest.

In recent years, the RNC has been the lone bright spot for the national party, consistently outraising the DNC. When Steele became chairman, one of the big questions was whether that advantage would continue.

The former Maryland lieutenant governor was known more for his communiciations talents than for his ability to shake the money tree. So far, the results have been positive and he has proved the doubters wrong.

Or has he? The Hill's story, it turns out, had a significant flaw. Steele's committee hasn't actually outraised the competition, though it has in three of the past five months.

Since Steele's tenure began, the DNC has collected about $48.3 million in contributions. The comparable figure for the RNC is about $45 million.

The reason for the disparity: both national party committees have received funds from other committees, transfers that don't qualify as contributions on Federal Election Commission disclosure reports.

In May, for instance, the RNC got an influx of about $12 million in funds left over from a John McCain 2008 campaign account.

What is true is that the Republicans have done better than many expected--and Democrats worse than anticipated--since the Dems are now in power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and, particularly, in light of President Barack Obama's record-breaking prowess as a campaign money lure. (Of course, the 2009-2010 cycle isn't over yet.)

The lead story this morning in USA Today spotlights a Republican comeback in campaign cash, focusing more on Republican House and Senate campaign committees than the RNC. The paper does note, however, that the RNC outraised the DNC by $1 million in August, attracting an average of 2,000 new donors a day, according to party spokeswoman Gail Gitcho.

The latest campaign funding reports show that Republicans have about $28 million in cash on hand, to about $20 million for the Democrats. Also, the Senate Republican campaign committee has brought in more money than the Democrats for two months in a row. This is raising the possibility that the GOP congressional committees will reverse a long-term decline.

Continue reading "Fundraising success yields positive headlines for Steele" »

Posted by Paul West at 12:34 PM |
Categories: Michael Steele

August 31, 2009

Medicare and Kratovil

For decades, Democrats have played on the insecurity of seniors by warning that Republicans would cut Social Security or other programs such as Medicare, the health insurance program for older Americans.

There is one simple reason why this scare tactic became a staple of Democratic campaigns: it works.

Now, as the battle over health care prepares to enter what could be a decisive phase this fall, Republicans are the ones who are warning senior voters about a dire threat to Medicare.

This role reversal, which began in earnest earlier this month with an op-ed by Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, makes ample political sense. National opinion polls show that seniors are among the biggest skeptics of the Democratic health care overhaul plan; they fear that they could lose benefits as a result.

A new attack ad against vulnerable Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil of Maryland is part of the latest salvo in this crusade by Medicare's Republican protectors (historically, Republicans were less likely than Democrats to support Medicare; however, it was under Republican President George W. Bush that the program was most recently--and expensively--expanded by adding a drug benefit that substantially increased Medicare's long-term cost, which threatens to bankrupt the country if it isn't fixed).

Below is a link to the new attack ad, which targets the freshman congressman from Maryland during the final days of Congress' summer recess.

The ad buy is quite limited: it is running only on cable channels and only on the Eastern Shore, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is sponsoring it. (On the other hand, Kratovil is one of only 5 Democrats currently being targeted for a TV ad, as opposed to radio attack ads and robo-phone calls, even cheaper means of political attack, which are being used against 35 other Dems. Thus, the backhanded compliment of having getting whacked on video is a reflection of the Marylander's extreme vulnerability, in the eyes of Republican strategists).

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Posted by Paul West at 10:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

August 5, 2009

Steele, RNC: Obama presidency a "failed experiment"

This just in...Barely six months into his four-year term, Barack Obama's presidency is a flop.

Don't take our word for it. The Republican National Committee has just released a web ad that writes off Obama's presidency as "a failed experiment in just 200 days."

RNC Chairman Michael Steele invited reporters to check out the new ad during a conference call Wednesday afternoon. The ad, and the call, were designed to draw attention to Obama's declining poll ratings and the nation's rising joblessness at the 200-day mark of the president's administration (which occurs later this week).

They came on a day of escalating back-and-forth between the two major party committees, as the political fight over health care continues to percolate.

Steele angrily rebutted accusations by the White House and the Democratic National Committee, who have charged Republican and conservative critics with manufacturing opposition to the administration's health care overhaul plan.

"This administration has the arrogance to look their nose down at my mother, my sister, my family members, my co-workers who are legitimately concerned," Steele said, heatedly. "To sit back and say this is some Republican cabal is a bunch of baloney. And you can substitute that 'b' for something else, if you want."

Steele said it was "a lie" for the Democrats to label Obama's critics as "angry extremists," when just a year ago, Democrats were praising opponents of U.S. economic and war policies for standing up to President George W. Bush.

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Posted by Paul West at 4:38 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Michael Steele

July 14, 2009

Michael's Steele's complete Republican guide to NAACP speeches

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele promised today that he would depart from the "cut and paste" history of Republican speeches to the NAACP and, instead, tell it his way.

Steele, appearing before the group's 100th anniversary convention in New York City, proposed a "new partnership" between the civil rights organization and the Republican Party. But his prepared remarks offered few specifics and came dangerously close to some cutting-and-pasting of his own.

In 2005, Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman, a Baltimore area native, made headlines with his speech to the NAACP's national convention that apologized for his party's history of playing the race card in appealing for white votes.

"Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization," Mehlman said. "I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."

Lifting a page from that playbook, Steele offered a comment in the same vein, though bland by comparison with his predecessor's remark.

"The GOP and NAACP have very often missed real opportunities to communicate and engage each other," Steele said.

In another familiar refrain from past speeches by Republicans to African-American groups, Steele called for expanding "economic liberty" and "empowering government more than the people." He referred, obliquely, to school choice and putting in place "the tools necessary" to sustain black middle class economic growth and bring others out of poverty.

"My goal: to advance freedom in the African-American community," said Steele, noting his membership in the NAACP's Prince George's County chapter.

He had begun his address by attempting to contrast his remarks with those of previous Republican speakers at NAACP gatherings.

"I spent some time looking at previous remarks by Republicans before this body, and I was struck by the litanty of phrases that Republicans often "cut and paste into a speech," phrases like "'Party of Lincoln,' four or five times. Reminders that Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican and he invited Booker T. Washington to the White House and the Civil Rights Act was passed by a Republican Congress over Democrat filibusters," according to Steele's prepared text.

He went on to highlight "an inextricable link" between the Republican Party and African Americans, his own successes as the first black lieutenant governor of Maryland and as the first African-American to chair the Republican National Committee (mentioned twice in the course of a relatively brief speech).

He also hit perhaps the most familiar theme that Republican leaders have used over the past quarter-century in their appeals to black voters: that the strong allegiance of African-American voters to the Democratic Party hasn't always been the wisest way to go.

Steele deplored the nation's lack of progress in addressing problems of high inceration rates, AIDs infection, school-dropout rates, unamployment and poverty among African-Americans.

Continue reading "Michael's Steele's complete Republican guide to NAACP speeches" »

Posted by Paul West at 12:29 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Michael Steele

July 8, 2009

Waiting for E.J.

The First District congressional seat in Maryland is on everyone's radar screen for 2010.

A pair of powerful Marylanders, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen and House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, will be going all out to protect one of their most vulnerable colleagues. And Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, just might want to help his party capture one of the juiciest pickup targets in the country.

The district covers mainly Republican portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, then jumps the Bay and takes in the entire Eastern Shore, one of the most conservative parts of the state. The current congressman, Democratic freshman Frank Kratovil, holds one of several dozen House seats nationwide from districts that voted for the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008.

Republican state Sen. Andy Harris of Baltimore County, who lost to Kratovil by fewer than 3,000 votes in a district that McCain carried by 20 percentage points, is already on the rematch trail. He's raising campaign funds and hoping for a clear shot at the incumbent in a year when Barack Obama's name won't be on the ballot to pump up the district's anemic Democratic vote.

Of course, Harris's primary triumph over Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest--unseating a veteran congressman in a classic conservative-moderate intraparty fight--was among the factors that helped Kratovil win. Gilchrest crossed party lines to endorse the Democrat, and in a race that close, it's easy to imagine that a divided Republican Party contributed to Kratovil's victory.

Next time around, for many reasons, Harris wants a straight path to the general election, allowing him to focus all of his time, money and effort on Kratovil.

Whether he gets it will depend, most likely, on what state Sen. E.J. Pipkin decides to do.

Continue reading "Waiting for E.J." »

Posted by Paul West at 9:18 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Michael Steele

June 25, 2009

Michael's Steele's latest poll numbers are a positive surprise

Lee Atwater, a master of attack politics and onetime Republican national chairman, had this rule of thumb: Drive up your opponent's negative poll ratings high enough and you make that person unelectable.

So the following question might be particularly relevant as a severely battered Republican Party looks for someone who might be electable in 2012:

Which nationally known Republican has the lowest negatives in the latest Pew Research Center opinion survey: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Michael Steele or Mitt Romney?

The answer: Maryland's Mike.


Okay, what if we narrow the focus and take the temperature of Republican voters only?

Palin goes from polarizing to highly popular. Her negatives drop sharply. Only 17 percent of Republicans rate her unfavorably, compared with 44 percent of all voters.

And which of our quartet of nationally known Republicans has the lowest negatives among Republican voters?

Once again, it's the Chairman.

But wait. These are trick questions, or misleading ones at best.

Continue reading "Michael's Steele's latest poll numbers are a positive surprise" »

Posted by Paul West at 4:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

May 21, 2009

Michael Steele "partied his butt off" at Hopkins

Michael S. Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee and former lieutenant governor of Maryland, resurrects a sometimes overlooked part of his biography for a speech to students at Woodson Senior High School in Washington — that he got kicked out of Johns Hopkins University after partying too hard his freshman year.

“My first year at Johns Hopkins, I had a good time. I really did,” Steele said during a talk taped by C-SPAN for its "Students & Leaders" program. “I partied my behind off. I heard there were classes, and some people told me I really should go, but I was having a good time. I was freshman class president. I knew most of my classmates by the end of my first week of school. I just networked the heck out of that bad boy. I was talking. I was grooving. I was having a ball.”

Then, he said, he got a letter that summer informing him that he had been kicked out. After some angst, he said he cut a deal and had to earn straight A’s in four summer classes to regain his place at the prestigious school. He credits his mother for being a quiet force pushing him to return.

“Moral of the story: perseverance,” Steele explained. “And recognizing you have the potential within yourself to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, sometimes you just got to push yourself to realize it.”

The program featuring Steele will be shown in its entirety on C-SPAN on Monday, May 25, at 7p.m.

-- Laura Smitherman

Posted by David Nitkin at 4:55 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Michael Steele

May 19, 2009

Republican Steele: A New Era of Class

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, in what his press secretary has billed as "an important speech," will call for civility and a return to the nuts and bolts of party-building at a luncheon for Republican state chairmen in Prince George's County.

"The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done," Steele said in prepared remarks that were provided to the Associated Press. "We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future."

He said Republicans will continue to criticize the Democrats. But, he said, unlike the "shabby and classless way" Democrats took on Bush, Republicans will take on Obama with class and dignity.

Steele, whose early months as RNC chief have been marked by an unusual amount of internal party bickering, assured the Republican state leaders at a private session this morning that he's whipping the national headquarters into shape and has gotten beyond the stumbles that have worried Republicans and provided easy targets for Democrats.

Earlier, in an appearance on "Fox and Friends," Steele said Republicans need to intensify their party-building efforts.

"It's time for us to get our heads out of the clouds and out of the sand and stop moping," he said, "and lay out an agenda that looks forward to the future."

Even as he attempts to refocus attention away from his own gaffes and internal dissent, Steele finds himself on the defensive over salaries paid to staff members.

The Washington Times reports that the RNC is paying former White House aide Angela Sailor, the party's outreach director, an annual salary of $180,000, more than twice the pay of the last person to hold the job.

A rare session of the full Republican National Committee is to be held Wednesday at the conference site, the National Harbor resort on the Potomac River just south of Washington.

One item that had been expected to draw unwanted attention, a resolution by conservatives to have the RNC formally brand the Democrats as a "Socialist" Party, appears to have been headed off. Revised wording, which still must be voted on, would say instead that the Democrats under President Barack Obama are taking the country in the direction of socialism.

Posted by Paul West at 11:30 AM | | Comments (47)
Categories: Michael Steele

May 8, 2009

Maryland GOP vet plucks RNC plum

Kevin Igoe, a veteran Republican strategist from Maryland, has been named to a top position at the Republican National Committee by Chairman Michael Steele.

Igoe, who helped Steele get the job back in January, will be the RNC's deputy chief of staff.

“I am excited to have such an outstanding and accomplished person become a part of our team. Kevin’s many years of private and public service will be extremely helpful in his new role as Deputy Chief of Staff. I look forward to working with him as the RNC charts a course to enable Republican candidates to compete and win,” Steele said in a statement.

The low-key political operative from Owings has a record of involvement in Maryland politics that stretches back to 1980, when he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the 5th District against Democratic Rep. Gladys Spellman (who, it must be reported, was in a coma at the time, from which she never recovered).

Igoe worked as a HUD lobbyist during the Reagan administration and has done a couple of stints as a staff aide on Capitol Hill. He was the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party in the early 1990s. He also helped direct Ellen Sauerbrey's nearly successful gubernatorial campaign in 1994 and joined the Bush/Cheney recount army in Florida following the 2000 election.

Posted by Paul West at 12:02 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 29, 2009

Republican Steele faces new internal challenge

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele's adversaries on the Republican National Committee have mounted what one Steele defender describes as "a hostile attempt to embarrass and neuter the chairman."

The effort, by the RNC's treasurer and several respected former party officers, appears designed to force Steele to make good on his campaign promise to impose new checks and balances on the hiring of outside consultants.

Amid the latest debris for the party--the defection of Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania to the Democrats and the loss of the upstate New York congressional seat that Steele and others had been heavily invested in winning---the latest contretemps may not seem like much.

But it's a new sign that Steele has still not calmed the internal upheaval that followed his election in January.

Continue reading "Republican Steele faces new internal challenge" »

Posted by Paul West at 10:19 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 21, 2009

Republican Steele's new job makes Democrat Mikulski "very happy"

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is a die-hard Democrat, but she finds a lot to like in the Republican Party's decision to pick former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael S. Steele as national chairman.

Mikulski isn't announcing that she's a huge Steele admirer. She's just glad he won't be on the ballot in Maryland next year.

During a recent interview with The Baltimore Sun, the state's senior senator discussed the outlook for 2010, when she, Gov. Martin O'Malley, the state's congressmen and women and members of the Maryland General Assembly will be seeking re-election.

"I was very happy that the Republican National Committee picked Michael Steele to run it, which kind of ties him up," she said, just after commenting that it was unclear which Republicans would be running.

Take that as a backhanded compliment, if you want, but Mikulski, one of the savviest politicians around, is clearly pleased not to have Steele as a candidate in her state next year. The last time Steele ran statewide, it was for the U.S. Senate in 2006. He raised $8 million and got 44 percent of the vote against Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin.

For more about Mikulski's re-election run, click here.

Posted by Paul West at 9:54 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 20, 2009

Steele and RNC keep money edge but gap may narrow

The Republican National Committee under chairman Michael Steele is out-raising the Democratic National Committee, according to just-released figures for last month.

Steele's RNC raised $6.7 million in March, compared with $5.6 million for the DNC, led by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. FEC reports for the two national committees, which file monthly, are due today; the figures come from press releases issued by each party.

The RNC was the brightest Republican fundraising story during the 2008 campaign cycle, when Republicans were otherwise out-collected at the national level by Barack Obama's record-setting fundraising operation and by Democratic House and Senate campaign committees.

In the 2007-2008 campaign, the RNC raised $427.6 million, compared with $260 million for the DNC under the leadership of Howard Dean, who never got deeply into the task of charming big bucks from the wallets of major funders.

When Steele won the chairmanship of the RNC in January, there were doubts about his prowess as a fund-raiser, too.

Continue reading "Steele and RNC keep money edge but gap may narrow" »

Posted by Paul West at 4:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 13, 2009

Steele reaches back to Ehrlich team for talent

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele has chosen another veteran of Gov. Robert Ehrlich's administration, Boyd K. Rutherford, for a key post at national party headquarters in Washington.

Rutherford, 52, will be the chief administrative officer of the Republican National Committee, a job that will put him in day-to-day charge of operations in DC.

Steele, in a prepared statement, said he was "very pleased to have an individual with Boyd's credentials" at the RNC.

Rutherford, who served as assistant secretary for administration in President George W. Bush's administration, has a reputation as a tough-minded boss who isn't afraid to say no.

Continue reading "Steele reaches back to Ehrlich team for talent" »

Posted by Paul West at 12:08 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 9, 2009

Tea party event organizers reject Michael Steele speaking request

The Washington Independent and other news outlets are reporting that organizers of an anti-spending Tea Party in Chicago have rejected a request from Republican national chairman Michael Steele to speak there.

"We prefer to limit stage time to those who are not elected officials, both in Government as well as political parties," according to a written response from Tea Party oganizer Eric Odom, posted on the Washington Independent site.

Odom pokes Steele, saying the chairman "has only just decided to reach out after realizing how big the movement has gotten."

Tea Party "revolts" against government spending are being organized throughout the country on April 15, including several in Maryland.

Posted by David Nitkin at 7:32 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 4, 2009

Have Republicans hit bottom?

The power shift that ousted the Republicans and put Democrats in charge of Washington may be approaching a turning point. Evidence is still sketchy, but the trend that favored Democrats over the last five years may have run its course.

Remember that special election for a congressional seat from New York? The one that would be the first referendum on Barack Obama’s presidency and a make-or-break test for Republican national chairman Michael Steele?

It wound up a virtual tie, snuffing out attempts to exaggerate its significance. But the returns helped illustrate the changing political scene, almost half a year after the 2008 election.

First, this is still a divided country. Even in the age of Obama, a swing district, like that one in upstate New York, can still swing Republican.

Democrats carried it in the last two elections. But if the Democratic candidate manages to pull out a victory—a risky bet, with thousands of absentee ballots yet to be counted—it will be by a hair.

Nationally, opinion surveys differ on whether the key group in the middle—independents—is moving away from the Democrats. But the Democratic voter advantage seems to have stopped expanding.

Continue reading "Have Republicans hit bottom?" »

Posted by Paul West at 8:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Michael Steele

April 1, 2009

Steele, Van Hollen upbeat on dead heat 20th

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele issued a bullish statement this morning about his party's prospects for eventually capturing the 20th congressional district seat in New York.

Yesterday's election resulted in a virtual tie, with Democrat Scott Murphy leading Republican Jim Tedisco by 65 votes out of more than 154,000 cast. However, there are more than 5,000 absentee ballots yet to be tallied.

"We are confident that the Republican advantage in these absentee and military ballots can put Jim Tedisco over the top, and the Republican Party will do everything in its power to make sure all lawful votes are counted,” Steele said.

A Democratic counterpart from Maryland on the national scene, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, was equally upbeat about his candidate's chances for victory.

"As votes continue to be counted, we're confident that Scott Murphy will expand his lead," said the Montgomery County Democrat, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"Murphy's strong showing in this district where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 70,000 represents a rejection of the obstructionist agenda and scare tactics that have become the hallmark of House Republicans," Van Hollen said.

The absentee count is unlikely to begin until next week, and a recount seems almost certain. That means it could be mid-to-late April, at the earliest, before everything is resolved.

The national Republican congressional committee's executive director, Guy Harrison, in a fundraising email sent out today, said Republicans "cannot afford to allow the Democrats to steal this election....Democrats have almost succeeded in stealing the election in Minnesota and seating Al Franken. We cannot allow them to manipulate electoral results to seat another tax-troubled liberal."

Continue reading "Steele, Van Hollen upbeat on dead heat 20th" »

Posted by Paul West at 9:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 31, 2009

No decision in New York special

The first notable election of the Barack Obama era is apparently too close to call, according to the Associated Press and other news organizations.

The House special election in upstate New York, pitting veteran Republican state legislator Jim Tedisco against political neophyte Scott Murphy, a Democrat, is a virtual dead heat. Murphy led by 69 votes out of more than 150,000 cast, with all precincts reporting.

The election, which featured national press attention and outside efforts by everyone from Obama to Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, is for the seat that two-term Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand vacated when she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate job.

A final result in the 20th district of New York isn't likely until military and absentee ballots are tallied, a process that could take several weeks. Or, if the still unresolved November, 2008 election for U.S. Senate from Minnesota is any guide, perhaps it will take several more months after that.

Until then, both sides can claim some measure of victory and everybody else can take a deep breath.

Posted by Paul West at 10:52 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

End infighting and finger-pointing, Steele demands

by Gadi Dechter -- The Baltimore Sun

Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele lashed out at GOP infighting Tuesday and urged the party faithful – some of whom have expressed discomfort with his erratic statements – to be more like him: “unconventional, unpredictable … to do from time to time the unexpected.”

At a fundraiser for the Anne Arundel County Republican Party at the Annapolis Sheraton, the former Maryland lieutenant governor returned to a hero’s welcome and jokingly acknowledged the rough road he’s traveled since taking over the national party earlier this year.

“Someone told me this whole chairmanship think would be a cakewalk,” he told the more than 400 Republicans who ponied up at least $75 a place to hear him speak. “I’ve learned you can’t please everybody. However you can certainly tick them all off at the same time.”

“That’s part of my strategy,” he said, to laughter, echoing a recent claim that his public tiff with talk show host Rush Limbaugh had been planned.

But Steele also expressed frustration with the public airing of party doubts about his leadership that have dogged his first months as chairman.

“I’m a little sick and tired of the finger-pointing and blaming and complaining,” he said. “Yeah, we have our disagreements. But you don’t play it out there for the press. You’ve got to keep it in the family.”

Del. Warren Miller, a Howard County Republican, noted that the famously off-the-cuff Steele appeared a bit more practiced on Tuesday. "That was one of the first times in my life I've seen him use notes," Miller said.

Del. Anthony O'Donnell, the House minority leader from Southern Maryland said: "I think he was probably saying we have enough detractors from without, we don't have to have detractors from within."

Steele’s appearance at the Republican State Central Committee of Anne Arundel County’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner boosted attendance by at least 100, said Louis M. Pope, an RNC’s committeeman for Maryland, who estimated the county party raised more than $36,000.

-- Gadi Dechter

Posted by David Nitkin at 9:39 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

Steele, Van Hollen bracing for New York verdict

In normal circumstances, the outcome of a special House election would have no bearing at all on the status of a national party chairman. But these aren't normal times for Michael Steele.

The Republican national chairman has attracted outsized attention over the past few months, often as a result of his own missteps. Now, he's likely to feel the fallout from today's election in New York's 20th congressional district, pro or con.

Republicans have a significant registration advantage over Democrats in the upstate district, which takes in rural and suburban areas near Albany, the state capital. Steele has campaigned there and directed hundreds of thousands of national party bucks on behalf of the Republican candidate, Jim Tedisco, a veteran state lawmaker.

Republicans continue to suffer nationally in the eyes of most voters, and Tedisco will be fighting that trend in a district that Barack Obama carried last fall and that went for a Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, in the last two House elections.

Stu Rothenberg, an independent election analyst, recently commented that "it's hard to see how" Steele deserves "any blame" if his candidate loses. But, added Rothenberg, "I'm sure someone will fault" him.

Continue reading "Steele, Van Hollen bracing for New York verdict " »

Posted by Paul West at 10:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 25, 2009

Steele tells CNN he would 'consider' running for president -- UPDATED

CNN's Don Lemon had an interview with Michael Steele, during the course of which the RNC chairman said he would "consider" running for president, and that his comments about Rush Limbaugh were part of a calculated strategy.

The CNN political ticker reported that Steele "stressed he has never given serious thought to a potential White House bid," but that he said he may decide to seek the presidency at some point if he determines that's "where God wants me to be."

"God has a way of revealing stuff to you, and making it real for you, through others," Steele said, according to CNN. "And if that's part of the plan, it'll be the plan….[If I run] it'll be because that's where God wants me to be at that time."

As for his run-in with Rush Limbaugh, which led to a public apology for calling the radio host an entertainer who is deliberately inflammatory: "I am a cause and effect kind of guy. So if I do something there's is a reason for it. Even if it may look like a mistake, a gaffe, there is a rational, there is a logic behind it. It's all strategic."

Posted by David Nitkin at 5:37 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Michael Steele

Steele wins rap-off with Colbert

Yes, we're a few days late posting this. But, we guarantee you'll get a chuckle.

Michael Steele never appeared on Colbert's show to accept the rap-off challenge, but Colbert's staff put together a brilliant montage that the host declared the winner. Enjoy.

Posted by David Nitkin at 2:02 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 24, 2009

Steele taps former Microsoft exec for RNC media position

Michael Steele continues to build his team at the RNC, announcing the hiring former Microsoft exec Todd Herman as director of new media.

Based on the RNC's news release, Herman's background sounds relevant and intriguing -- and he appears to have the experience needed to reach out to voters in cutting edge ways. In a statement, Steele said Herman will help Republicans "reclaim the lead in the use of digital media to communicate with America."

From the RNC:

"Until September 2007, Todd was a Microsoft executive where he held a number of senior leadership positions, most recently General Manager, Media Strategy and Monetization for MSN. Todd was the Streaming Media Evangelist at where he wrote the initial strategy and business plan for MSN Video Product Unit. Under his leadership, MSN Video inaugurated over 100 traditional TV brands into broadband video and its revenues grew four fold over four consecutive years. Prior to joining Microsoft, Todd was Co-Founder and CEO of theDial, a venture-capital backed Internet radio network. theDial’s syndication network was the first to welcome Fortune 500 companies and national consumer brands to Internet radio advertising. His most recent company is SpinSpotter, a venture-capital backed, semantic web business and winner of a 2008 DEMOgod Award.

"In 2008, Streaming Media Magazine named Todd one of the 25 initial inductees into the Streaming Media All Stars for his role in launching both the Internet radio and broadband video industries. AdAge Magazine named Todd “the media guy” at Microsoft, and he has been featured in Business Week, The New York Times and profiled in the Seattle Times.

"Todd is a provocative speaker on media strategy, new media audience dynamics, digital-politics and pop culture. He has been a featured solo speaker at The Future of TV, VON, Ogilvy’s Verge Summit, Ad:tech, The National Association of Broadcasters, Streaming Media and Digital Hollywood. He is a frequent guest lecturer at UCLA’s Anderson School for media and entertainment. Previously, Todd was a nationally known radio talk show host perhaps most remembered for beginning the movement that contributed to the defeat of sitting House Speaker Thomas Foley in 1994."

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 19, 2009

Steele Lands A Big Fish

For his latest addition to the top staff at Republican Party headquarters in Washington, national Republican Chairman Michael Steele has picked up a highly regarded operative, Gentry Collins, to be the RNC's political director.

Collins was the Midwest regional campaign director for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, a job he won after running Mitt Romney's statewide operation in Iowa.

In a statement, Steele said he was "thrilled to announce the addition of Gentry to the RNC team. He brings with him a proven record of success at building broad bases of grassroots and volunteer coalitions."

The former Maryland lieutenant governor went on to say, as party chairman, his "primary task a the RNC is to grow our party and elect more Republicans and this appointment allows us to take another step towards those goals."

Collins has a solid working familiarity with his party's operation in Washington, having served as national political director for the Republican Governors Association and as an assistant to then House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas.

An Iowa native with a political science degree from Iowa State University, Collins has also served as executive director and deputy chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.

His hiring adds to a growing number of top positions that Steele has filled in recent weeks. He cleaned house at the party's office on Capitol Hill shortly after his election in January, with the number of those who either quit or were fired estimated at somewhere in the 70 to 100 range.

Posted by Paul West at 12:21 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 18, 2009

RNC fundraising under Michael Steele's leadership

The Republican National Committee has announced its first monthly fund-raising totals since Michael Steele became chairman, and the figures may not quell his critics.

The RNC said it raised $5.1 million in February, and has $24 million cash on hand.

“The Republican National Committee is in a strong financial position thanks to our motivated base of supporters and contributors,” Steele said in a statement. “We are building the organization we need to be successful in 2009 and beyond.”

The numbers have been highly anticipated by those watching Steele’s tenure and examining whether his self-inflicted wounds would inflict lasting damage. One of the main functions of the chairman is to raise money, so high levels of contributions could dampen criticism.

The February figures, however, don’t appear to stack up well against recent historic parallels.

As Adam Nagourney of the New York Times reported: “At a similar moment in the political calendar in February 2005, also just after a presidential election and the start of fundraising for the mid-terms, the Republican National Committee raised $12.5 million, according to the Federal Election Commission. In the first two months of that year, the committee, under Ken Mehlman, raised $23 million.

“Mr. Steele’s advisers argued that the beginning of 2005 is not a fair yardstick, since Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House then. ‘We’ve just lost the White House — it is what it is,’ said Curt Anderson, a senior adviser to Mr. Steele. ‘Every Republican committee has to deal with the new reality ’cause everyone got fat and happy having the White House.’

“In that same period in 2005, the Democratic National Committee, which was out of power — but not quite as out of sorts — raised $6.5 million. ‘We’ll hold our own,’ Mr. Anderson said. ‘I think we’ll do fine.’”

The RNC released only its topline number; reporters and political operatives will soon dive in to the details of expenditures and receipts.

Politico blogger Anne Schroeder Mullins writes that “sources say [the fund-raising report] will have some lavish expenses.”

We’ll soon see whether Steele’s supporters and critics think the party is doing fine.

Posted by David Nitkin at 7:58 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

The symbolism of Michael Steele's new job

Writing in The Hill’s online publication, Texas Republican polling company owner David R. Hill said the symbolic value of Michael Steele’s selection as Republican National Committee chairman has proven to be of limited value in the early weeks of Steele’s tenure, and that Steele's success will rest on substance.

“While Michael Steele seems like a good and decent man, worthy of respect and honor, we have to be frank and admit that his selection was driven by symbolism,” Hill writes. “Like African-Americans who have fallen into the trap of one-party politics, Republicans have wandered into an ambush of one-upmanship on race. The Democrats gave you a black president; we’ll give you a black party chairman. Michael Steele didn’t have the most party administrative experience. He didn’t have the coolest technology plan. He didn’t even necessarily have the best story to tell about why he’s a Republican. Yet we chose him, because we wanted to send a symbolic message about race.”

Hill continues: “Eventually, Steele will be a fine chairman. He’s doing a thorough job of evaluating the party’s bureaucratic structures. And he’s welcoming new faces into that process. These are hopeful first steps that will doubtless be followed by others. He clearly wants to succeed and has the skills to do so. But it’s a little ugly in the unfolding. And when all is said and done, Steele will succeed on substantive issues rather than symbolic imagery. Centrists, liberals and minorities are not going to be fooled into rethinking our party just because we have a black chairman. It’ll actually take some substantive shifts to successfully woo any of those votes to our side.”

Hill concludes that Republicans should be “leaving symbolic politics to the Democrats." To read the full piece, click here.

Posted by David Nitkin at 12:57 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 16, 2009

Steele dismisses global warming

Michael Steele hosted Bill Bennett's radio show on March 6, and engaged in a lively dialogue over global warming and other issues.

As reported by Domenico Montanaro of MSNBC, Steele pointed to the name of Greenland as evidence of cyclical climate changes.

"We are cooling," Steele said, according to MSNBC. "We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I use my fingers as quotation marks, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? Not very long."

Steele insisted that he would not let Democratic critics get the best of him, or force him to resign as RNC chairman.

"Trust me. Not me, baby. Not happenin.' "No way, no how," he said to a caller

Read the full blog posting from MSNBC on the link below (or, to go to the Web site directly, follow the above link.)

Note: An earlier version of this post included an incorrect date for Steele's radio appearance.

Continue reading "Steele dismisses global warming" »

Posted by David Nitkin at 4:45 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Michael Steele

Editorial cartoon skewers Steele


from Mike Peters of the Dayton Daily News

Posted by David Nitkin at 12:47 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

Steele defense grows with Frum endorsement

Add former Bush speechwriter and neoconservative thinker David Frum to the list of those who believe Michael Steele should stay as RNC chairman, despite his rocky start.

Frum was on Meet the Press on Sunday, and was asked about Steele's comments during a GQ interview during which he seemed to support abortion rights.

“It should represent a view within the Republican Party,” Frum said of Steele's comments, according to the Web site The Moderate Voice. “It should be permissible to say such a thing. I speak as a Republican: we need Michael Steele. He’s exciting. He’s warm. He has a marvelous TV presence. That’s the face that our party should be presenting to the country and we need to support him. And the very fact that he is opening up, talking to constituencies that need to be reached — these are valuable and fresh things. And I’m sick about the kind of level of attack he’s taking. Because we need him.”

According to the Web site, Frum is a frequent critic of talk radio's exclusionary culture.

Posted by David Nitkin at 9:51 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 13, 2009

Michael Steele: the GOP's Urkel?

As Maryland's Michael Steele gets slammed for his GQ interview marks that seemed to indicate he supports a woman's right to chose and abortion (he later clarified them), some are coming to his defense.

Slate blogger Meloynce McAfee says she finds Steele's fumbling attempts to make Republicans hip and cool to be endearing.

"We can’t all be as cool as 44; Steele knows he’s the Steve Urkel to Obama’s Stephan Urquelle," McAfee writes. "And is that so bad? Politicians like Steele and Obama are constantly having to straddle the line between the black community and the mainstream. Calling Steele out for being out of touch with hip-hop culture smacks of the 'not black enough' heat both he and Obama have faced—an experience many a bookish black kid can explain in detail."

Urkel? Not bad! We can help make McAfee's case stronger: wonder if she knew that when not performing in plays, Steele's high school extracurricular activities included fencing.

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:45 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 12, 2009

Republican Steele's "days are numbered," says ex-Democratic chairman

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, a former Democratic national chairman, said this afternoon that Michael's Steele's "days are numbered" as Republican national chairman.

"Fortunately for us," Rendell added. He described the embattled Steele as an "engaging personality" whose failing was his desire to expand the Republican Party.

"I don't think the forces that control the Republican Party really want a big tent," Rendell told a group of Washington reporters over a lunch organized by the Christian Science Monitor.

He said the Republicans don't want a "pro-choice" chairman, referring to Steele's apparent support for abortion rights.

That's why Steele "is in trouble," said Rendell.

The Democratic veteran, who is the current head of the National Governors Association, said that Steele's personal qualities had enabled him to win the Republican chairmanship back in January in an election against "a field that was less than charismatic."

But now that Steele has the job, conservative Republican forces want him out.

"So I think Michael Steele's days are numbered--fortunately for us," said Rendell.

The governor dismissed out of hand the suggestion that the outcome of this month's special election in upstate New York to fill the seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, should somehow determine whether Steele should stay in his post.

"Nah," said Rendell.

Posted by Paul West at 2:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Michael Steele

GOP Steele detractors in a bind

Red Maryland has an interesting post up from a Michael Steele detractor who, nonethless, thinks the party shouldn't dump him. The post outlines a laundry list of questionable things Steele has said or done but concludes that the thing for Republicans to do is to work with the guy instead of trying to dump him:

Political Wire reports that Steele will most likely face a no confidence vote after the March 31st special election to fill Kirsten Gillibrand's seat in NY-20. Unofficial word, and I have nothing more substantial than that, is that failed nominee Katon Dawson is a mover in this boneheaded scheme.

For those who don't know, Dawson's campaign foundered when it scored an own goal. Dawson allegedly at some point in his life belonged to a whites only club that wasn't the US Senate and was unable to effectively address the allegation. The whole thing seemed tenuous to me and I figure if a former Klan recruiter can be president pro tem of the Senate then let bygones be bygones.

We are already suffering from allegations of tokenism in our election of Michael Steele. Very unfairly, I might add, as the first choice of a lot -- but not enough -- of us was Ken Blackwell. The last thing we need right now is a palace coup pulled off by someone with Katon Dawson's baggage.

And that's the issue the GOP faces -- even if it wasn't playing the politics of symbolism in choosing Steele, it would certainly get whacked by the politics of bad symbolism if it dumps him.

Posted by Andy Green at 1:08 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 11, 2009

Michael Steele: Pro-choice after all?

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele ran for the Senate from Maryland in 2006 as an opponent of abortion rights.

Last fall, Steele's role as co-founder of a moderate Republican organization nearly cost him his chance to become chairman. That's because the leader of the group was former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, whose abortion-rights advocacy is anathema to many Republicans.

But Steele maintained that he was solidly opposed to abortion rights and his selection as party chairman was hailed by anti-abortion groups.

“Roe versus Wade was wrongly decided. It should be overturned in my personal view," he told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network in early December. "We (the Republican Party) value life, born and unborn, and we will fight for that and I will fight for that as an individual and I will fight for that as chairman of the party.”

But now, Steele seems to have revealed what some suspected all along: that he believes women should have a right to choose an abortion.

At least, that's the implication of remarks by Steele in a recent interview with Lisa DePaulo of GQ Magazine.

Here's an excerpt:

How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?

Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that—I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.

Explain that.

The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?

Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.

You do?

Yeah. Absolutely.

Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?

I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.

Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?

The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.

Do pro-choicers have a place in the Republican Party?


How so?

You know, Lee Atwater said it best: We are a big-tent party. We recognize that there are views that may be divergent on some issues, but our goal is to correspond, or try to respond, to some core values and principles that we can agree on.

Do you think you’re more welcoming to pro-choice people than Democrats are to pro-lifers?

Now that’s a good question. I would say we are. Because the Democrats wouldn’t allow a pro-lifer to speak at their convention. We’ve had many a pro-choicer speak at ours—long before Rudy Giuliani. So yeah, that’s something I’ve been trying to get our party to appreciate. It’s not just in our words but in our actions, we’ve been a party that’s much more embracing. Even when we have missed the boat on, uh, minority issues, the Bush administration did an enormous amount to advance the individual opportunities for minorities in our country. In housing. In education. In health care.

Posted by Paul West at 6:28 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 9, 2009

Michael Steele's technological problem

Part of Michael Steele’s pitch to Republican National Committee members picking a new chairman was that he was the right person to oversee a technological overhaul of the party.

But his rocky start has undercut that claim.

As James Oliphant of the Tribune’s Washington bureau reported, the RNC has lost some of its top technological talent in the house-cleaning overseen by Steele.

“Last week, the organization lost Cyrus Krohn, who was credited with modernizing the GOP online effort,” Oliphant wrote in a story he filed for use in the Tribune’s weekend papers. “Krohn’s departure was curious because Steele had spoken often about the need to compete technologically with Democrats. A Silicon Valley veteran, Krohn increased the party’s e-mail list from 1.8 million to 12 million in little more than a year.”

Once he makes up with Rush Limbaugh and quells the concerns of some who are demanding he step down already, Steele faces the challenge of making lots of hires to fulfill his pledges.

To read the full Oliphant story, follow the link below.

Continue reading "Michael Steele's technological problem" »

Posted by David Nitkin at 11:51 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 7, 2009

Republican Steele's biggest challenge isn't on television

The media have piled on poor Michael Steele.

From Rush Limbaugh’s radio network to the columns of the Baltimore Sun, the Republican national chairman got pummeled for his dumb remark on a comedy show that nobody watches. A few days after Steele’s appearance on D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, CNN quietly announced that it was dropping the program.

But Steele’s biggest challenge won’t be found in a TV studio. Instead, it lurks within the insular world of party politics.

As soon as he became chairman, the former Maryland lieutenant governor cleaned house at the national headquarters. Perhaps as many as a hundred people were let go.

Even some loyalists now fear he cut too deeply. And in his hunger to grace the airwaves, he hasn’t taken the time to plug those holes.

As a result, doubts are growing about Steele’s management skills, always the biggest question mark to many insiders.

Continue reading "Republican Steele's biggest challenge isn't on television" »

Posted by Paul West at 8:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 6, 2009

Steele's urban hip hop GOP gets parodied

For the record, this video is totally inaccurate and unfair in its portrayal of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. He is, in fact, much taller.

Posted by Andy Green at 5:12 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 5, 2009

O'Malley, Alonso slam Steele

Looks like the folks at Frederick Douglass were not amused about being held up by RNC Chairman Michael Steele as the poster children for urban eduational disfunction. Baltimore Schools CEO Andres Alonso and Gov. Martin O'Malley, who happened to be at the school for a town hall meeting last night, demanded an apology. Steele's comments in a CNN interview struck a particular chord, since he had been to the school three years before and promised a personal effort to improve the place. So far as anyone can tell, he hasn't been back since.

"I don't think Michael Steele has been here since he came in an election year to demagogue, kick around our children," O'Malley said last night before his town hall meeting at Douglass on education and the economy.

In the scheme of the criticism Steele is facing these days, ticking off some Democrats in Baltimore doesn't quite register on the same scale as going toe-to-toe with Rush Limbaugh and blinking. But if party members continue to grumble about their new chairman, this could fit into a narrative about a guy who's a little too glib for his own good.

Posted by Andy Green at 10:40 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 4, 2009

Michael Steele takes a shot at Baltimore high school

Sara Neufeld reports on the Inside Ed blog that Rush Limbaugh wasn't the only one Michael Steele took a swipe at in his CNN interview over the weekend. He also criticized Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore as a place where Democratic leadership is failing inner-city kids. This is particularly interesting given that:

--Steele once pledged to personally ensure that Douglass improved


--Gov. O'Malley happens to have a town hall meeting there tonight to discuss the federal stimulus package and its impact on Maryland education.

Sara will be covering the meeting tonight, so check back to see if this comes up.

Posted by Andy Green at 1:33 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Michael Steele

March 3, 2009

Toe to toe with Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele blinked first

In the battle between RNC chairman Michael Steele and talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Steele blinked first.

But the feud may not dissolve anytime soon.

The flap began over the weekend, and has become fodder for cable news shows and political blogs.

Steele made a weekend appearance on the DL Hughley show on CNN, and fielded a question over whether Limbaugh – who had just delivered a fiery speech at the CPAC convention – was the “de facto” head of the Republican Party.

Not so, said Steele. Limbaugh was an entertainer, the former Maryland lieutenant governor said. And he sometimes used “ugly” rhetoric, such as hoping that President Barack Obama’s economic policies would fail.

To be sure, there was no way that Limbaugh would stay quiet. On his radio show yesterday, Limbaugh lashed into Steele.

Limbaugh said Steele needed to focus more attention on backroom party building, and less on being a talking head. Limbaugh accused Steele of being ungrateful after the host had Steele on his show during Steele’s 2006 Senate bid.

After the impact of Limbaugh’s words sank in, Steele had second thoughts. He told Politico’s Mike Allen that he called Limbaugh to apologize.

“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren't what I was thinking," Steele said. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people ... want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he's not."

Some national commentators are painting the flap as a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

It is also the nation’s first in-depth look at the glib, off-the-cuff Michael Steele – which Marylanders have witnessed for years.

Millions are now learning that Steele’s first instincts are to make comments that while sometimes clever, are not particularly well thought-out in hindsight.
The tendency has been on display locally. In 2005, when asked his view about Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., his political partner, holding a fund-raising event at an all-white country club, Steele responded: "I don't know that much about the club, the membership, nor do I care, quite frankly, because I don't play golf. It's not an issue with me."

He later apologized for appearing to be insensitive.

As a Senate candidate in 2006, he explained his opposition to stem cell research, telling a predominantly Jewish audience in Baltimore that they should understand better than anyone the dangers of experimentation on humans, a clear reference to Nazi-era scientific work.

He later apologized, called the remarks “irresponsible.”

Steele lost the Senate race. He’s no longer lieutenant governor. He’s now got a much more visible platform, though. The stakes are higher.

How many more mistakes will he get?

Posted by David Nitkin at 12:49 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Michael Steele
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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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