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

    Thanks tea party for all the racism and trying to supress the vote....Keep up the great work in 16...Rick Perry?Sounds good.

    November 15, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  2. Ed FL

    Michael biggest problem as a GOP member is his color. They tried to use him in hopes he could bring over many Minorities towards the GOP for election reasons only.That didn't work out to well so America will have to wait and see what the GOP tries next.

    November 15, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  3. another truther

    The reality is there are two facets to the GOP, the Moderates to which I believe are more about the majority of Americans and the extreme vitral Tea Bag party who are living some distant fantasy from decades ago. It's a much different world today, Steele is a highly intelligent individual who I wished was a Democrat, we need smart progressive people in our party who can help the Country move forward.

    November 15, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. Bartbrn

    Ahhh, the sweet schadenfreude for someone else's schadenfreude! Nothing could be more pleasjng than watching this seemingly endless parade of teabaggers, strings still hanging from their slack-jawed yaps, pushing and shoving to be the next Karl Mitt Ryan Trump to plant their feet in the next guys mouth. The "Republicans" eating each others' young in public almost makes up for their Supreme Court-created SuperPAC avalanche of moronic and mean-spirited ads, which must have worn out the "mute" buttons of several million TV remotes. Now we're in the Oz of election overtime... keep 'em coming, baggers!

    November 15, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  5. Bob in LA

    So now we know that Romney was telling what he believed to be the truth about the 47%: they only want gifts. Very glad he was not elected president.

    November 15, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  6. yogi

    Stupidity is a word that has been used quite a bit to define the Republican party, now it is being used inside the party to define themselves. It is not going to make any difference whatsoever, they will continue with the same stupidity, thinking if they can communicate their ideology to the American people in a different way everything will be all right. Same stupidity. Painful to watch.

    November 15, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  7. Jim in Georgia

    Is this man even relevant any more? Mitt didn't lose like John McCain did. A few votes here and there and we would be hearing a different song...

    November 15, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  8. DocHollywood

    The more I watch Michael Steele the more I like that man. And the more amazed I am that the republican party ousted him as chairman after the success he brought it. But face it, Steele is a moderate, and there is no room in this republican party for a moderate.

    November 15, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  9. JohnK

    Love to see the right-wing and "Moderate" Republicans fighting, although its tough to win a battle of wits when neither side is armed!

    November 15, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  10. Squigman

    Wow. It's hard to believe that a political party ( the republicans ), could be as clueless as they seem to be. There was a time when the republican party had dignity, and character. Apparently, those days are well behind us now. Why would any republican candidate say some of the things they've said, and expect the majority of the people to agree? Also, why do they say something, then a day later deny that they said it, when they know there's such a thing as recordings of the things said? It's like they expect people to swallow anything they say, without question. Get a clue.

    November 15, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  11. CBP

    The Republicans need a chairman who believe that the GOP needs to change the way the party does business. He/she needs to get the members to become more open-minded and more accepting of differences between members. No groups has all the answers and the constant negativity does not help at all.

    November 15, 2012 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  12. greg sheets

    Maybe its as simple as the people aren't buying the republicans b.s anymore.

    November 15, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  13. Buffaloroam

    A fringe benefit of this election seems to be that moderate voices in the GOP are being heard more. Perhaps not an endangered species after all?

    November 15, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  14. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    If Hillary Clinton decides to run in 2016, she will win in a popular vote and electoral college landslide. Better luck in 2020 Repubs.

    November 15, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  15. banasy©

    Hindsight is always 20/20...too bad they didn't come to these conclusions while the race was actually being run.

    November 15, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  16. IndependentGA

    Steele is right. I doubt that Republicans will understand what happened to them in time for 2016. They have gone from blaming the election on "not running a more conservative candidate," to "the majority of Americans voted for Obama because he gave them gifts." It will take a few more election cycles for them the realize that, Americans are just simply not buying the BS they are selling. Moderate your stances on some of the social issues and stop advocating economic policies that benefit the rich and the GOP might make some gains.
    Side note: Stop with this, "We need to take our country back" nonsense. This country does not belong to conservatives no more than it belongs to liberals. This is OUR country.

    November 15, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  17. kkjyhs

    Sure would have been nice if Jindal, Barbour, and Steele had condemned the "stupid behavior" of the Republican Party (and I'm not limiting that to Akin and Mourdock, but also McConnell, Preibus, McCain, Bachmann, Romney, et al) when the stupid behavior was being demonstrated and not only after they lost the election.

    November 15, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  18. Gregory M, Newbold

    Mitt`s mistakes:

    1.) Didn`t release 10 years of tax returns in November of 2011. He was not deemed trustworthy.

    2) He didn`t smack down Ted Nuggent over threats to Obama & Rush Limbaugh over his attack on Sandra Fluke. He didn`t show anger and disgust at Murdock & Akin.

    3.) He didn"t have a foreign affairs world view that he believed in for more than 3 to 4 days. He sought to politicize everything at Obama`s expense.

    4) He didn`t respect the common man. You can`t make the 47% comments if you respect veterans, seniors, hardworking lower income people. Mitt demeaned blacks, latinos, women, others.

    5.) He offered warmed over "tax cuts for job creators" economics . . . supply-side, trickle down economics.

    November 15, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  19. TBone813

    The true gift is not being subjected to the Mittens / Ryan daily lunacy tour on the news nightly.PS.. Hello from your %47!

    November 15, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  20. Georges

    The Republicans say they must attract more minorities. In other words, they want to put on their gentle faces. But, in reality, they have no love for these groups. They just want to use them as stepping stones to regaining power. WHERE IS THE LOVE? Certainly, this love is not evident from recent words and actions coming from them in the wake of their resounding defeat in the elections.

    November 15, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    John McCain is going to poop in his pants when Vietnam Veteran Senator John Kerry is appointed by President Obama to either Secretary of State or Defense, that's one of the reasons he's gone bunkers other than the fact President Obama has dusted him off 2 times. The GOP better stop him before they "fall on the sword" with him, there's nothing left for McCain and it's time for him to retire with what little dignity he has left.

    November 15, 2012 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  22. Prestoni

    I think the 2016 GOP ticket should be Donald Trump-President, Sara Palin-Vice President, Sen McCain, Secretary of Defense and oh yes, Big Bird for Press Secretary

    November 15, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  23. kousa

    Hopefully the repubs will get their act together by 2016 and select a man or woman candidate with integrity. Romney lost because he had no integrity. I know many repubs that didn't vote for him because of all his lies and deception. I'm one of them. I'm more of a moderate republican and definitely not a progressive but I just couldn't take all the lies. We needed a president with integrity. At least we knew what we were getting with Obama. Romney was scary.

    November 15, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  24. ray

    dont run liars a the highest level, dont run immigrant haters, dont run racists and dont run another romney and ryan and you can win

    November 15, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  25. Smeagel4T

    Steele: Yet another GOP clown trying to be ringmaster of the GOP circus.

    November 15, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
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