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Michael Steele bids to be first African American chair of RNC

The fallout starts from the political demolition the Republicans experienced in last week's presidential balloting:

Michael Steele, former Maryland lieutenant governor and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate, announced this evening his candidacy to become chairman of the Republican National Committee. His announcement is an open challenge to current chairman, Mike Duncan, who has saFormer Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele announces candidacy for chairman of the Republican National Committeeid he was exploring a re-election bid when the committee meets in January.

Normally, the party chair is named by the president if he controls the White House. But with George W. Bush leaving Jan. 20, the next selection will be left up to the RNC's members.

In his announcement Steele, a former Maryland state party chair, said he made his decision to challenge the incumbent last weekend, but delayed disclosure while he telephoned many committee members to seek their support.

The 50-year-old Steele, a native of Washington, D.C., and its Catholic school system and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, has had his eyes on the RNC's top job for several years.

He was about to announce a candidacy to succeed Bush aide Ken Mehlman immediately after losing a Senate run in 2006, when Bush named Florida Sen. Mel Martinez.

Martinez got the job, partly as an outreach to the Latino community, which did not work very well, according to last week's presidential voting. The Cuban-born Martinez held the job only nine months and resigned 13 months ago eager to return to full-time senatoring, given his re-election campaign in 2010.

Duncan, a Kentucky native and longtime party operative, inherited the challenging job, which ...

... came after Republicans lost both houses of Congress in 2006 and with polls accurately predicting 2008 would be a difficult year for the GOP. That was not least because party members had to defend 22 of the 34 Senate seats up for election at a time of economic uncertainty and perilous presidential unpopularity.

Even though the chairman and the RNC always yield to the presidential candidate in those election years, Duncan was virtually invisible this year. And his role, if any, in the damaging Sarah Palin clothes flap has yet to be detailed.

At the beginning of Bush's terms, he named former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore to the RNC spot. But his tenure was brief given his combativeness.

Bush then named one of his most trusted friends, former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, who worked very closely with chief White House strategist Karl Rove on national strategy and fundraising through frequent phone calls and early breakfasts. Racicot left the RNC after two years only to chair the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign.Current chairman of the Republican National Committee and longtime GOP party operative Mike Duncan

Tonight Steele said, "The Republican Party must present a vision for the future of America that relies on our conservative values and core principles. It is wrong to believe the voters have suddenly become liberal. They have just lost any sense of confidence that the Republican Party holds the answers to their problems.   

"We must face the fact that our party has failed in recent years to live up to our own principles -- we have failed to be ‘solutions oriented’ in addressing the concerns of all Americans.”

Steele also added: "Most Americans today see a Republican Party that defines itself by what it is against rather than what it is for. We can tell you why public schools aren’t working, but not articulate a compelling vision for how we’ll better educate children. We’re well-equipped to rail against tax increases; but can’t begin to explain how we’ll help the poor.

"The success of our Party’s resurgence will come from the states -- from our local leaders and from our Governors.”

The next Republican chairman, especially if he's African American at a time of an African American president, is likely to play a key national role in rebuilding a GOP that is plum out of obvious national leaders. The lack of political ambition of Vice President Dick Cheney and the advanced age of the losing presidential candidate, John McCain, leave no obvious heir apparent.

Steele's right about the next party leader for 2012 likely coming from the 21 remaining Republican governors or a short list of former governors such as Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. As if to underline that, a few of them including Louisiana's 37-year-old Bobby Jindal are planning test-the-waters trips to Iowa later this month.

Yes, this month.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Office of Michael Steele; Republican National Committee

Comments () | Archives (5)

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I'm in strong favor of Michael Steele's bid to be chairman of the RNC. He's a brilliant man who believes that the Republican party must be revitalized if it's to be strong and successful. I think he's the man to reorganize and revitalize the party. Good luck Mr. Steele!

Seems like pandering, not that M. Steele isn't qualified (I don't know), but it kind of smells like "they have a black man, we have a black man".
Here's an an idea - how about if every wealthy white male Republican politician just gives up his seat tomorrow to any skin tone female or any black man who happens to be available. That should put the RNC on equal footing with the Democrats. Forget about ideology, McCain was a rock ribbed conservative and he got his butt kicked. Oh, wait a minute - McCain was a dumber than a rock RINO who enjoyed ribbing and lashing out at his own party, a real life maverick who was smart enough to marry a good looking wealthy woman who owned a beer company. Seriously, he used a lifetime of brilliance on that one move. Nothing's left over now and he was just a marionette for the media all those years. Do you think John will reflect any in what's left of his life about how funny it is that after all that tithing to the media for all those years and when his turn came there was nothing for him right? You picked your wife a lot better than you picked your friends Johnny Boy. You got exactly what you deserved.

This is the MOMENT!! Michael Steele can lead us from the wildnerness.

Michael Steele is what the Republican Party needs! New ideas, new blood and new leadership!! Support Michael at

Let's just assume that the real issue is the conservative idealogy alone, but come on! The real issue is that the base of the RNC is basically racist and the real issue is that the only good person of color in the eyes of the RNC is an "Uncle Tom" who remembers his place with the true power of the RNC; white, wealthy, elitist people with strong connections to White Supremecists groups, spouting claims of Christian superiority. Sarah Palin and her extremely racist supporters, evidenced by their rhetoric and language of them after Palin rallies have successfully unmasked the true heart of the RNC. Black, brown, red and yellow will never trust the GOP ever again. The current GOP is the biggest pack of hypocrites when it comes to fiscal responsibility, not to mention Christian and family values.

Michael Steele is nothing more than an Uncle Tom puppet for the GOP and FOX News Machine. He is a disgrace. When Obama was being slandered by Hannity and Limbaugh and others, he went along to get along and now we have all seen what a shame he is to the Black community. Pathetic at best.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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