May 11th, 2009
07:26 PM ET
7 months ago

Romney camp hits back at Steele for Mormonism comments

Steele said Romney lost the GOP nomination because the party's base rejected him.
Steele said Romney lost the GOP nomination because the party's base rejected him.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – In an unusual move for the person tasked with being his party's top cheerleader, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is shining a light on the political vulnerabilities of one of the GOP's top figures and a likely frontrunner for the 2012 Republican nomination - former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Now Romney's team is hitting back.

Steele, guest-hosting on Bill Bennett's radio show Friday, cast doubt on Romney's conservative bona fides and blamed the Republican base for rejecting Romney last year because "it had issues with Mormonism" and was unsure of Romney's commitment to opposing to abortion rights. Those comments aren't sitting too well with Romney's political team.

"Sometimes when you shoot from the hip, you miss the target," said Romney spokesman Eric Ferhnstrom. "This is one of those times."

A Romney aide noted that the former Massachusetts governor won the Conservative Political Action Conference's annual straw poll the past three years, won 11 presidential primaries and caucuses, and earned 4.2 million votes by the time he left the race in February of last year.

The RNC chairman made the comments when responding to a caller who claimed that Romney, if he was the nominee, would have been a stronger candidate against Obama than John McCain. The caller argued that Romney never got a chance to be the nominee because "liberals" and the media pushed hard for McCain to win the Republican nomination.

But Steele disagreed.

"Remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life," Steele told the caller. "It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitt because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you're talking about."

"So, I mean, I hear what you're saying, but before we even got to a primary vote, the base had made very clear they had issues with Mitt because if they didn't, he would have defeated John McCain in those primaries in which he lost," Steele concluded.

Audio of the exchange was captured by the liberal blog ThinkProgress.


Filed under: Extra • Michael Steele • Mitt Romney
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. proud army navy mom

    I love it, Keep talking steele. you are doing a wonderful job.

    maybe the repugs will destroy each other.....

    May 11, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. Fla.

    And the GOP drama continues. This month's episode appears to be a sequel of conforming & hypocrisy.

    Didn't Steele recently have his own problems amongst the "base" with pro-choice waffling? While I take issues with Romney's ever-shifting positions, it has nothing to do with his Mormon faith. Then again, I'm no longer part of that 21%.

    May 11, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    How will the GOP ever repair itself when they bicker in public?
    Jeez, it is pathetic to watch.

    May 11, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Methinks the GOP doth revile its own reflection.

    May 11, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. Judi Baller

    Mitt Romney is such a hypocrite. He would never have won in MA if he had been pro life, so he ran as Pro choice. He even had to think about which state he would run in, MA or Utah. Then he changes his tune so he can run for President as a Republican. I am from Boston, and he is not a very well liked person and would not have won his second term as Gov. I didn't read all the comments, so I may be repeating someone here.

    May 11, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. RepubliKLANs Are Plain STUPID

    these girls are fighting again!!!...is this Jerry Springer party? ooops, Rush Limbaugh is running the show and the party and he is a class act entertainer...

    May 11, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. ejwied

    Idiots! Even tried to throw in "the liberal media" ... these guys can't keep up with their own line of bs. It's Amazing!

    May 11, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. Randy

    HA,HA, will you show me the stooges>Mitt=Moe, Rush=Curley, Michael= Larry, Now some one needs to klunk their heads together.

    May 11, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. Randolph Carter

    Yogatious wrote: Christianity rejects most of the main tenants of Mormonism...

    So you're saying that Christians won't rent apartments to mormons? That's housing discrimination! Have a nice day!

    May 11, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  10. Larry

    Laurel and Hardy ...

    Where is Groucho ...

    May 11, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  11. American Idol hater

    Ron Paul was the only republican candidate that could of beat obama. He has a perfect voting record on all issues. Check for yourselves. The republican /democrat elites are the same and they collectively wanted obama to win, that's why they put dead horse mccain in the challenger position.

    May 11, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    This is sweet...I wanna see a last-man-standing sissyslap fight in a kiddy pool full of pudding between McCain, Steele, Limbaugh, Romney, Boehner and Coulter. My bets are on Coulter as long as she can manage to keep that adam's apple of hers (his?) from taking an elbow.

    May 11, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. Plantman

    Although we can all appreciate the time Mr. Steele is saving us by dispensing both political =and= religious catechisms, it is harder to hear him now that he has such a large foot planted in his mouth.

    May 11, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. ja

    the DNC gotta love it

    May 11, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  15. Robin in Tampa, FL

    I'm not sure if I completely buy Steele's argument, the GOP "base" is not as big as he thinks ... if it were then Huckabee would have been the nominee for the Republican party very early on, however Huckabee struggled to make up ground even in the South which should have been his best stumping ground. No ... Mitt lost because he's was perceived as an extremely shallow guy with very little conservative principles.

    May 11, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. John Fenton

    During the primaries, Romney was asked about his five sons and serving in the military. He said that they were serving the country by helping in his campaign. I have been waiting to hear that even one son has joined in the battle that Romney claimed to be the most important to our security, Iraq, after his withdrawal. I know that I will be waiting for a long time. Maybe until my son returns from Fallujah.

    John Fenton
    Proud father of US Marine Sgt. Matthew Fenton
    Died from wounds received in Iraq May 5th 2006

    May 11, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. Austin Swafford

    I love Michael Steele. He's the best friend a Democrat could have right now. What a goof. What a bungler. I hope he just keeps on talking.

    May 11, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    It's like a mad game of Twister mixed with Operation for Steele:

    Head in bum...foot in mouth...don't touch the sides....butterfingers...

    May 11, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. JaniceS

    You know, Mormons tend to be Republican. Way to alienate another group of supporters.

    May 11, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  20. bess

    religious bigotry has no place in politics.

    sadly, the conservative right hasn't figured that out yet. democrats will be in public office a long, long time until the republicans stop self-destructing.

    huckabee took a cheap shot at romney last year and it worked to clear the path for gov mike; what's Steele afraid of? that romney would make a better RNC chair than him?

    religious bigotry has no place in politics... period.

    May 11, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  21. dotjet

    I swear, the Republican Party reminds me more of the Three Stooges every day!

    May 11, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  22. Allen in Hartwell GA

    I love it!!! Let them eat their young.

    May 11, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  23. Rick

    Fortunately for Steele, the GOP base isn't opposed to moronism, or he would be out of a job. Is there anybody in the GOP he hasn't alienated yet? There's always tomorrow.

    May 11, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  24. bess

    johnrg08–
    needs to learn the facts before spewing his hatred about mormonism.

    however, he's already formed his opinion's and he's entitled to them but his 17% number is wrong and misleading and anyone who claims to be such an expert on mormon's would know where the LDS church is based.

    May 11, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  25. Kimberly

    Eating their own again, HAHA, I LOVE IT!!! Way to go repukes, you are making your country proud...TO BE DEMOCRATS!

    May 11, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
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