Former RNC chair points to 'highly stupid' election year mistakes
November 15th, 2012
12:43 PM ET
1 year ago

Former RNC chair points to 'highly stupid' election year mistakes

(CNN) – It's the season of election post-mortems, and one former Republican National Committee chairman offered his perhaps blunt thoughts about why his party "got outplayed and outflanked" in 2012.

Michael Steele was swept in as the RNC chairman after major GOP losses in 2008, then ousted after some GOP leaders thought the Republicans' gains in the 2010 midterm elections came in spite of his leadership and at great cost. Some saw him as unconventional and others considered him damaging to the party.

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"You can't put the blinders on and say this was a status quo election," Steele said at the "Washington Ideas Forum" on Thursday. "This was not a status quo election at all. From the ground game to the get-out-the-vote, to the messaging, nothing was status quo."

Among the major changes to the political landscape was the influence of super PACs, Steele said, which changed the way money was raised and spent in politics.

Some money that would have gone to party committees was instead contributed to super PACs, he said.

Super PACs, a new type of political action committee that came about after a January 2010 Supreme Court decision, siphoned off money from the political parties and campaigns, Steele said. Those groups primarily funded massive television ad buys, rather than the get-out-the-vote efforts often spearheaded by parties and campaigns.

"The reality of it is, you can run campaign commercials all day long, but you have to get Joe Six Pack off the couch and into the polls," he said. "The ORCA clearly beached and did not deliver what needed to be delivered."

ORCA was GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's Election Day get-out-the-vote software that crashed and underperformed, according to numerous news reports, though some accounts quote Romney staffers as saying the program was not a significant part of the candidate's loss.

Steele also described election year changes to voter laws as "highly stupid."

"It was highly stupid and it was made up by a lot of ham-handed actions by state legislatures," he said. "When a voter - however ill-informed or wise they may be in their understanding of the facts before them, if they feel put up on, oppressed, suppressed, or refused the opportunity to participate in the franchise - pull away from it."

Steele's criticism builds on recent comments by Republicans, who have sharply warned that the GOP must become more inclusive and adapt to demographic changes in order to stay competitive.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, appeared alongside on the panel with Steele, and said the Republican Party would not be able to win in the future by simply "running candidates who are brown, black, and that are female."

"They've gotta change different policies," he said.


Filed under: 2012 • Michael Steele
soundoff (157 Responses)
  1. Kirk in michigan

    The first mistake was insurmountable, mitt romney

    November 15, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. ingyandbert

    No, no, no! The Republicans don't need to change a thing! Just keep running empty suit, gaffe-prone, old white male candidates and employ the same tortured arguments, underhanded tactics and offensive rhetoric. Then, by all means, believe your own hype no matter how much it flies in the face of reality. Seriously, DO NOTHING DIFFERENT.

    The Democrats of America beseech you...

    November 15, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. California Gary

    Whatever you think of Steele personally, you can't argue with the results he achieved in 2010. After seeing his replacement in action this year, I would say the GOP made a big mistake in replacing Steele. I do think the Dems would have made the gains they did anyway......the GOP ran inferior candidates......but maybe Steele could have headed off some of the things that made the GOP look absolutely ridiculous in this election cycle. His comments about the GOP's failings this year are right on.They would do well to listen to him and a few others that are openly honest about the changes that need to be made if the GOP is to remain a viable political party in the future. If they don't shed themselves of the Tea Party mentality, they are doomed as a party.

    November 15, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. Marie MD

    The candidate was flawed and the choice of vp candidate couldn't get him Wisconsin!
    The whole rethug party needs a revamping. It starts with getting rid of old fools like mcnasty, the KY couple chin guy, tooth an cantor, ms lindsay graham the rubio's of the sorld and even the lyan altar boy.

    November 15, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. Wake up People!

    Unfortunately I wouldn't believe a word any republican said. Actions speak louder than words. When I see this Steele guy, one word comes to mind. Token. They used you then kicked your rear to the curb.

    November 15, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. CBP

    The GOP ousted Mr. Steele and then replaced him with someone who could not get independents excited about the Republican Party. He just helped to move them even further right until they were almost backed into a corner. There was no way to get out without changing the views of the members.

    The Republicans need someone who is aware of the needs and desires of Americans. He needs to decipher which ideas are valid and which are just not going nowhere. He/she needs to find some new voices for the party. The old white men from the Senate who are so bitter because American are not voting for their party need to go. Men and women who can think beyond the elections would be a good start.

    November 15, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. Ann Wilson

    The RNC put Steele in as some sort of desperate move of tokenism. Obviously 93 percent of African American voters were not in any way taken in by this phony GOP gambit.

    November 15, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  8. Chris in NY

    Republican believe in spreading Democracy through wars while suppresing people at their backyard. How can you tell a Egyptian government how to treat their women when you have no regard for a woman who is not your wife, mother, sister or daughter. You can disagree with someone on their belief or anything else, but you don't have to condemn them or feel you are better than they. That lack of respect by Republican men toward anyone who they think is the "other" is what will continue to doom Republican party for years to come. They are very condescending in their approach to people's lives.

    November 15, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Stupid? They seemed like the "right" things to say and do at the time. I hope this election serves to burst the bubble of the artificial reality that right wing media has constructed purely for its' own financial gain. Right wing media doesn't care who wins elecions. All they want are ratings and revenue.

    They've done a brilliant job of infusing their fans with an extremely convincing false reality. So convincing that it caught the entire conservative movement off guard when Barack Obama won re-election by an electoral landslide. Now the right wing media is engaged in convincing conservatives that denial is what's best for them. That Democrats won because of something they did, and not anything that conservatives did. Steel's right, and he has nothing to lose with the right wing to come out an blast them with the truth.

    November 15, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Mike

    Grover Norquist and his bully cornering tactics along with the Tea Party is why Romney lost and the American Electorate is moving away from The Republican party. The GOP canidates are being pulled so far right due to the threats being made by Norquist's group and Tea Party threats to run canidates against them or to dry up the money they need to have a winning ground game. Look at Wisconsin, as hard as Scott Walker tried to kill the democatic money machine in the state it still went for Obama and for Tammy Baldwin, Walker and Ryan couldnt produce results.
    The GOP electorate isnt as far right as the vocal few in the party wish it was... either conform to the reality of this and dump the like of Grover Norquist and Walker or contibue to lose elections....

    November 15, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. Darryl

    The Republicans will never get over this election LOSS. To this day, they actually believe only they have the right answers to the countrys problems. They just can't deal with reality in any form whats so ever. They've completely destroyed their creditability and political standing in the country for many, many years to come. What they hare going to have to face is this, More likely than so they will never take control of the W/H for probally 25 to 30 years. This is the damage they caused and elections have results and consequences. They're not a part of the equasion any longer in the growth of this country.

    November 15, 2012 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    California Gary

    Whatever you think of Steele personally, you can't argue with the results he achieved in 2010. After seeing his replacement in action this year, I would say the GOP made a big mistake in replacing Steele.
    ----------------------
    Unfortunately for Steele, his chairmanship had to come to an end. Recall that it was plagued by scandals that wasted donor dollars. Recall the junkets to expensive hotels with expensive food, drinks and entertainment. Donors were quite angry with Steele despite his stellar fund raising record before the waste came to light. Steele's leadership had become a poster child of stereotypical right wing arrogance. He blew it.

    November 15, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. just sayin

    hmm.... steele said a lot of dumb things when he held his position and now he's saying others did the same thing. go away steele. you still have a bad case of foot in mouth disease.

    November 15, 2012 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  14. plain&simple

    Steele has a brain and uses it. That's why they replaced him....he was telling them things they didn't want to hear or accept. Very dangerous when dealing with people who don't want anything to evolve.

    November 15, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    He didn't do much for the GOP, when he was the chair, as I recall. He certainly didn't win the election then, either.

    November 15, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Boo

    The Republicans were so arrogant and stupid they thought the election was theirs. And now I am enjoying every minute of their implosion into irrelevance......GOOD RIDDANCE TO ALL OF THEM.

    November 15, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  17. Dan5404

    The diehards are still at it, including Romney and Ryan. They just can't believe that their policies are considered extreme and in the minority. They are still trying to explain how they lost by a quirk, dishonest opponents, even voter suppression (their own policy)...anything but the truth, The GOP lost because of angry ultra right-wing retoric and policies that are too extreme for most Americans. Even McCain and Graham are attacking Susan Rice for doing the same thing their own Condoleeza Rice did after 9/11, repeat faulty intelligence information...yet they didn't say a word about their own GOP policies that caused thousands of young men and women to die in Iraq, based on incorrect intelligence.
    Of course, it is always the GOP that knows the answer before official investigations bring the truth. Their witch hunts are a pre-conceived answer with the actual investgation not imporant.

    November 15, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. Meka

    Republicians allowed the TEA Folks to take control!!!

    November 15, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  19. jules

    Politics is not a game where you just say what people hear It's following thru with what you say. Until the Republicans start thinking about all the citizens instead of just being concerned about the rich there will be a long road a head for the Republican party

    November 15, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Lorelei Starkman

    I am sorry to say the Republicans will never gain the
    Senate or the Presidency as long as they follow the path they are. Today on TV there were speakers, namely Boehner and Mccain Criticizing every step the administration tries. All their bickering and setting up separate investigating committees will not be forgotten when 2016 rolls around. You need o get with it and give the publc a fair shake or your party will dissappear as others did. Keep your nastiness to yourselves and give the President a chance. Racism is out of style along with bigotry .

    November 15, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. cashmeremafia

    I second that – he made a campaign stop in Prince William County, VA, which is half middle class minority, and he goes to the lily white town of Haymarket, totally ignoring the minority areas. So, you go to a SWING state and talk to the people who are going to vote for you anyway – genius move. Was that his idea or his incompetent campaign mgr?

    November 15, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. Fortinbras

    Thou shalt not betray the country for the sake of. Thou shalt not have tax havens or otherwise pay a rediculously low tax rate. Thou shalt not ship jobs abroad or otherwise betray the country for any type of personal gain. Honor and respect all Americans.

    November 15, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  23. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    Prince Reebus really makes Steele look like a genius.

    November 15, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  24. cali girl

    Yesterday Robmey had an explanation of why the President won his re-election.
    Robmey said Obama gave big gifts to the American People. Without stating any more of what "gifts" mean, he went on to say the immigration reform for many young Hispanics and other things is why President Obama was re elected.
    Looks like Robmey is still grieving over the death of his campaign. Robmey lost because he wasn't the choice of Americans, by popular vote and Electoral Votes. Robmey had nothing to offer, throwing the 47% of Americans under the bus while he accepted donations from a handful of billionaires.
    Time to let it go Robmey and enjoy your retirement years.

    November 15, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  25. JohnRJohnson

    One of the most "stupid" things the RNC did was replace Michael Steele with Reince Priebus, a dullard of the first order and a tool of the far right.

    November 15, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
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