Former RNC chair points to 'highly stupid' election year mistakes
November 15th, 2012
12:43 PM ET
5 years 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. Jessie P.

    The Republican party needs to win the white vote back....the white Republican vote back. They think in 2016 they can win with Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, and the list goes on and on. After talking to many friends/neighbors/relatives about why, though they are registered Republicans, they voted for Obama, was mainly because Mitt Romney lied about himself and about Obama. He ran against a "make-believe" Obama and did not want to rely on people checking the facts, but they did and decided not to put a liar in the white house. If Republicans want to win in 2016, they better put T. Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, or Chris Christie on the ticket. Putting Jeb Bush will remind everyone of George W. who left with extremely low approval rating and putting Marco Rubio or Susana Martinez will only make Latinos mad, insults Latinos. We are Republicans and votes for Obama.

    November 15, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. wakeupamerica

    Go somewhere and shut up Michael Steele.

    November 15, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  3. Babyboomer

    Not a big fan of Steele but he, Jindal and Barbour seem to understand that things can't stay the way they are if the Republican party is to survive. It's tough to get old white men to evolve. They've had unearned privilege so long, it's the only way of life they know. Sadly, it reminds me of the Confederacy before (and in large degree) after the Civil War and before the Civil Rights movement of the 60's. Just look at how John McCain and Romney are behaving. Like spoiled brats who don't understand why they can't have their way. They have problems with minorities, women, young people, gay and lesbian people. Basically everyone except people who look and act like them... Sad, really sad...

    November 15, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. Randy, San Francisco

    Wonderful to see the GOP/Tea Party tear itself apart with in-fighting, the extreme right wing purist deniers versus the moderate reformers for change. After a very embarassing journalistic and partisan performance, which side will Fox news take?

    November 15, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. preco01

    Did you forget to add, and a "higly Stupid" candidate!

    November 15, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. rs

    Rudy NYC-
    You're right about Steele, but think about haw mad the Kochs, or Edelson are now! Hundreds of millions of their dollars gone! The GOP not only can't manage the federal budget, but they're pretty bad with their own money too!

    November 15, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. Citizen

    JohnRJohnson you hit the nail on the head. The vitriol spewed by Reince Priebus contributed to the beating that GOP took.

    November 15, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. rs

    cali girl-

    What you have to give to Romney is he has nerve. Yeah, Obama was giving away "gifts"! Sure, he was going to give the richest 125,000 Americans an additional $800,000 in tax cuts... but Obama was giving away "gifts". America came to its senses and elected the right man to office!

    November 15, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  9. Jojola

    Reince Priebus is a joke. I can't believe they replaced Michael Steel for this chump. What an embarrassment to everyone when he speaks. Funny how not one republican has ever said anything negative about Reince but found several faults in Steel. Truth be told, Michael probably voted democrat. I know I would have after how GOP used and then kicked him to the curb.

    November 15, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  10. Jackson

    Someone needs to remind Step'n Fetchit that, if the GOP cared about his opinion, he'd still be head of the RNC.

    Fade into oblivion, please.

    November 15, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  11. TheVoice2

    Romney said that Obama offered gifts to blacks, latinos, students, etc. Well Romney offered gifts to the rich. The problems is that 99% is more than 1%.

    Elizabeth Warren 2016!

    November 15, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  12. rs

    Republicans have proven conclusively that since their loss in the election last week that they have become pretty much unfit as a group to hold national elective office. Between the in-fighting, Romney's pathetic plutocratic excuses, McCain's outrageous behavior, the seccession talk, the craziness on the right-wing media front, these people have simply shown that aren't good enough for America anymore. They are sorry, self-absorbed, self-centered losers living a rich, delusional fantasy life. We are better off as a nation without them in power.

    November 15, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  13. ClarasBeau

    Ah, as they continue to gather, standing in a circle, facing each other, guns drawn...

    Ready... Aim... FIRE!!

    November 15, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  14. nc_mike

    I still don't hear GOP leaders standing up and opening telling Rove, Norquist, Rush, Hanity, and the rest of the the nutcases that their days are over and a new moderate GOP has emerged. Tell the John Birchers – the Tea Party and the Neocons to shut up or go form their own party Mr Bohner and moderate GOP members – grow a pair take control back of the real GOP!

    November 15, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  15. don in albuquerque

    Saw a "panel" of GOTP yesterday on one of the morning shows being asked questions by a GOTP hack about why they lost, and one of the questions was do you believe the Prez is a Socialist? Naturally they all very solumnly raised their hands. I am certain had he asked them to define "Socialism" he would have gotten answers everywhere from Communism, to Natzism, to Zen. By intentionally keeping your voting base stupid, lying to them, and rewriting history what do they expect? Also not one black face in the whole group. What a bunch of losers.

    November 15, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  16. nc_mike

    The new moderate GOP we want: financially conservative, socially progressive, pro business, pro middle class. Such a reborn GOP would crush the Dems – exactly what most of the middle wants and doesn't exist on either side of aisle. Where are the ultra right going to go, the Dems? Ha!

    November 15, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  17. philojazz

    Here's to hoping that the GOP remains the party of stupid delusional liars that it has become!

    November 15, 2012 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  18. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    Think of how much good could have been done with the hundreds of millions of dollars the Koch brothers and Adelson and all the multinational and foreign corporations spent on trying to elect a flip-flopping numbksull like Mittens!

    Teachers, immunizations, prenatal visits, research grants, disaster relief ...

    These Repubs really have their priorities messed up!

    November 15, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    Step 1: We admitted to ourselves that all of our economic, military and foreign policies are proven failures.
    Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    Step 3: Made a decision to let go of our delusions, learn from the past, and turn our will and our lives over to the care of WE THE PEOPLE.
    Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

    And with that, the Republican Party disappeared in a toxic cloud of smoke!

    November 15, 2012 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  20. Retire the Old Warhorse

    Just days after a $1,000,000,000 defeat, we've got some of the most "respected" republicans in America making idiots of themselves.

    Tonight the starring role seems to belong to John McCain, who is destroying whatever legacy he might have had left by playing cheap politics with a non-issue, and doing whatever he can to launch a few more worthless wars.

    November 15, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  21. kayla

    i told ya' ll the president was going to part the red sea, and he did

    November 15, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  22. john

    I hope that somewhere down the next century of so that the GOP will start to remember who they are supposed to work for. Let them eat crow and maybe they will finally understand how out of touch with the real America they are. Then they can shed the religious right and tea party.

    November 15, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  23. WOT

    One can not argue with reprobated minds or White Only members, who still see slaves in their rear-view mirrow!

    November 15, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  24. scott

    has michael steele made mistakes in his polical career??? yes...but not as bad as rhence prebus...m/s is a good guy, ashame he wants to be associated with a bad brand

    November 15, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  25. fernace

    We are only as strong as the weakest among us! I don't know who said that but it resonates in the here & now! The Republican party has always catered to the rich more than the poor, but now it's off the chart & blatantly evident! Citizens United, DOMA, states witch hunts on womens healthcare clinics & legalizing invasive procedures, are all evidence that the current incarnation of the GOT-Party don't care at all about the average person & in fact, want to hold & keep us down! If I believed in the New World Order theory, I'd say this is where the Republican party wants to take us! Back to the days of the ruling class & the peasants! They need to quit the T-Party w/it's twisted ideas on social issues & bring in new blood w/ideas based in reality, not idealism! Then they need to work, compromise & come up w/viable solutions to our economic dilemas! And quit acting like every day in Washington is an election of us v. them! They work for the people & the people have spoken!!

    November 15, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
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