May 19th, 2009
05:31 AM ET
6 years ago

Steele: GOP must focus on conservative principles

RNC chairman Michael Steele will issue a rallying cry to his embattled party in a speech Tuesday.
RNC chairman Michael Steele will issue a rallying cry to his embattled party in a speech Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will tell GOP state leaders Tuesday that they must embrace conservative principles, focus their efforts on rebuilding the party and highlight the policy differences between Republican ideals and President Obama's agenda.

"The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over," Steele will say in a speech to the RNC's 2009 State Chairmen's Meeting, according to excerpts obtained by CNN. "It is done. We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the review mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future."

Congressional Republicans, who were loyal to President Bush throughout a majority of his two terms, largely sought to break with him in the 2008 elections because he had become a political liability.Over the past few months, GOP lawmakers have acknowledged that the party moved away from one of its core principles of smaller government and less federal spending during the Bush era.

Steele, who was elected to head the party in January, will say the GOP is now "beginning to rally" at the grassroots level after losing control of the White House and additional seats in the Senate and House in November.

Watch the speech on CNN.com/live at 1 p.m. ET

"Those of you who actually attend Lincoln Day dinners, county party events, and tea parties…those of you who toil in the vineyards, spending time in communities, in diners, barber shops, and coffee shops where real every day people can be found…you know it is real," Steele will say, according to the excerpts.

The RNC chairman faces a difficult task of keeping the party united as different political factions maneuver to try and influence what political direction the GOP should head. Social conservatives argue that the party needs to return to its roots on issues such as abortion and stem cell research while centrists counter the GOP needs to be welcoming of all Republicans including those who believe in a more liberal political ideology.

Already, there have been casualties in this political fight. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter recently became a Democrat, saying that he realized his political views were no longer in line with the Republican Party, and admitting he would have faced a difficult GOP primary in his re-election bid. Former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, who is now the president of the centrist organization Republican Main Street Partnership, told CNN he thought Specter "was pushed" out of the party, and warned that other centrist GOP lawmakers might also leave if they no longer feel welcomed.

And in a recent appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, former Vice President Dick Cheney said he preferred conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh over his former colleague, Secretary of State Colin Powell, when it came to Republican politics. Powell had endorsed Obama over Republican nominee John McCain in the 2008 election.

In his speech, Steele will point to the late President Ronald Reagan, the architect of the modern-day Republican Party, to explain his own view on the GOP's future.

"As conservatives we must stop acting like we don't really believe in our principles," Steele will say. "Too often we act as if we are scared to apply our timeless principles to today's problems and challenges… For Reagan's conservatism to take root in the next generation we must offer genuine solutions that are relevant to this age."

And when it comes to the president, Steele will charge that on the campaign trail "Obama was very moderate in his views," but that since taking office the president "could not possibly be further to the far left."

"We are going to take this President on with class, we are going to take this President on with dignity," Steele will say. "This will be a very sharp and marked contrast to the shabby and classless way that the Democrats and the far left spoke of the last President."

The RNC meeting wraps up on Wednesday with a scheduled vote on a controversial resolution that calls on Democrats to rename their party the "Democrat Socialist Party."


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