Former RNC chair points to 'highly stupid' election year mistakes
November 15th, 2012
12:43 PM ET
2 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. meetings with not-as remarkable men

    the only way for the GOP to win is to quit.

    November 15, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  2. Woman In California

    My memory still works fine and I remember Steele was almost as awful as Rinse IS. He said absolutely terrible things about Nancy Pelosi and the president. He often appeared as though he wanted to physically strike her and it was disgusting to watch him stalking and bullying her to please the TP. Sure, he's presenting himself differently now, because he works for MSNBC but I will always remember his abusive behavior towards her and he deserved to be used, kicked out and forced to sit around Obama supporters at MSNBC and offer "useless" republican analysis.

    November 15, 2012 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  3. Centrist Voter.

    They didn't lose because of "mistakes", they lost because of their POLICY!

    November 15, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  4. Eugene

    To reasoned republicans out there – it's not about black, brown latino or whatever. It's about policies that are inclusive of all men; not just rich, white old men. We are educated, intelligent, hardworking and love our country perhaps more than you do. And, of course, we are tired of war and the associated rhetoric.

    November 15, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  5. Bally63

    At Jessie P. – you are correct in yoiur assestment. I find Rubio incredibly offensive to Latinos and I should know. I am a Latino voter from Florida – Cuban American to be more exact. The GOP believes if you throw in a a Latino face (Rubio) or an African American face (the Pizza guy – forgot his name already) that's enough to have Latinos and Blacks run to the GOP. Believe it or not, we too care about policy.

    And about Michael Steele, the GOP made a huge mistake removing him as head of the RNC. He's very personable and civilized as opposed to Priebus.

    The one thing I will always remember as will many in my Miami Dade County is that our Governor was instrumental in assuring that we had to wait hours to cast our vote. Can't wait till 2014.

    November 15, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  6. fsjunkie

    This will amount to nothing more than a bunch of hot air. The Republican Party is incapable of changing its ways. Steele and Jindal actually look pretty stupid, having served in this party that has been playing race war games with its brain dead base for as long as I can remember, but especially over the past 4-6 years, and to now act as though they are full of disgust. They are unprincipled. Romney was a weasel running as a weasel...at least he was consistent.

    November 15, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  7. David Crosby

    Looks like they should have kept him .Huh..?

    November 15, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  8. Beverly - NYC

    Fingers crossed that the Republican will not listen to these sudden moderates. Don't change Republicans you're perfect.

    November 15, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  9. lsboogy

    I just want the old Republican party back

    November 16, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  10. Jam One

    Republicans should do nothing different, please continue your ways, you guys are geniuses it is us the electorate who cannot see the wisdom of your political platforms. So please keep on keeping on until us the electorate sees it your way. Do nothing different, please.

    November 16, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  11. Alfred E. Neuman

    How is a party to become inclusive when their beliefs are opposed to those whom they are trying to attract? The Republican Party will require generational change before this happens. At some point both parties will fuse together and all this nonsense will go away.

    November 16, 2012 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  12. Roger

    The Republican Party would have been wise to stay with Steele. He follows common sense

    November 16, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  13. mike271828

    Michael Steele is right - the Republican Party did indeed make "highly stupid" election-year mistakes. But then, it's a highly stupid party, for the most part supported only by even more stupid old white males. And the Republican Party is visibly getting more stupid month by month as the hijack by Bachannite ignoramuses unfolds.

    The Republican Part is doomed - at least, it's doomed as long as it remains in anything like its present form. hugjly

    November 16, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  14. mike271828

    The Republican Party: a circular firing squad.

    November 16, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  15. LouAZ

    Steele is, of course, correct. However, it was fun to watch Reagan Rebublicans morph themselves into Tories, once the blood letting of their "primary" anointed King Ronmey and Queen Ann with little Prince Charming Paulie Rayn as Court Jester. King Ronmey really got into the Monarch's clothes, as he really believes he was born for the POTUS. But it was apparent to all . . . the King has no clothes ! God, King, and Country . . . Onward Christian Soldiers . . . even if Ronmey is kind of an illigitimate true holy roller, really only anointed by the self promoting Billy By God Graham.

    November 16, 2012 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  16. Thomas

    Whats next for Reince Priebus ?

    Dancing With The Stars of Fox NotNews ?

    November 16, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  17. MissouriBoy

    I saw one poster say "Which side will Fox news take, the far right Christian who want to move farther right, or the moderate GOP that wants to be more inclusive?" Simple answer: Which ever will make more money! Rush Limbaugh is the same. He knows that the best way to make money is to be extremely abusive and crazy far right. Rush is a prescription drug abusing serial philanderer. He is the exact opposite of the far right. Yet, on the radio, he is their best friend. Why? Show me the money! Fox will go far right and crazy, because that is where they make the money.

    November 16, 2012 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  18. mimi

    Romneys campaign might have been stupid. His problem, though, was not the campaign, but a GOP which did not have anything to offer regarding the burning problems of the country. That's why the voters made the right choice: GOP is out of time.

    November 16, 2012 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  19. Jack

    PACs cannot directly support candidates. So by law they can only attack. In this case when Romney was being attacked in the beginning his campaign had no money to fight back. It all went to the superpacs.

    November 16, 2012 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  20. Dave A

    . If the repubes wanna win, they need to become Democrates!

    November 16, 2012 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  21. Scott

    The GOP can complain all they want about this guy, but he got results, unlike the chairs of other recent years.

    November 16, 2012 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  22. Augie10

    I just hope we never see another Republican President in my lifetime. America can't afford another Republican! Look how long it is taking the country to regain it's footing after 8 years of failed Bush/Cheney!

    November 16, 2012 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  23. Michael

    The real issue with the GOP, for me, is not just their policies but the contempt they seem to show the average American from either party. This is evident by Steel's statement in this article: "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,". At this point you could not pay me to vote GOP.

    November 16, 2012 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  24. David Evan Karasek

    Republicans: stop the weopons of mass transaction and keep your eye on the ball. You have a bill to sign to help the middle class.

    November 16, 2012 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  25. ronvan

    STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES: Thr republicans are a complete JOKE!! They nominated M. R. and supported his quest for the presidency. NOW, they are , basically admitting, that he was the wrong person! IF they knew this at the start, then WHY did they not pick someone else? M. R.'s comment on "gifts", once again shows that he was NOT the right person for the job! And, to no surprise, they are PROVING that they are the party of NO, in reference to this "fiscal cliff" issue. BONEHEAD, aka, Boehner, the spokesperson for the republican party, for me, shows just how IRRELEVANT their party has become! THEY cannot accept the fact that they LOST, and do not even have the common sense to realize their actions are destroying their party!

    November 16, 2012 05:18 am at 5:18 am |
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