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. tomnikoly

    "but you have to get Joe Six Pack off the couch and into the polls"

    Ha! That's a bit condescending Michael. But you also have to keep Joe ill-informed and misinformed.

    "They've gotta change different policies"

    That's right Ed...they need to become progressive. "Progressive Republican" is an oxymoron. Ain't gonna happen.

    November 16, 2012 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  2. MarieMD

    steele makes sense once in a while but he still goes off that right wing cliff in so many issues.
    There's no way that the hate party is going to turn night into day in two or four or 20 years.
    They still believe that the twit and lyan ryan lost the elections because of the leeches of this countries not because of their views of the world. The world that is "not like them".

    November 16, 2012 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  3. ObamBam

    The Republicans did not lose. The vote was cloaked in fraud. Mostly overt too. The MSM still will not cover it. It is sad. The facts are out there. Obama lost in all states that require photo-id. The powers behind the Democratic Party perpetrated the biggest fraud ever in an election. I see a bleak future for this country.

    November 16, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  4. Donald in CA

    A black man will never be important in the current republican party. Just look at what romney is saying about people of color and he was their nominee for president.

    November 16, 2012 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  5. winterfling

    Bottom line is, the Romney campaign was scary, run as though the American people had long term memory loss. Jobs and the economy are the single biggest thing right now. The insane holding to Norquist's pledge, instead of compromising and looking human, is killing the Republican Party. Fiscally responsible, clear plans for the future would have swept him into office, instead, we were offered attacks on social issues, insults to the populace and constant changes of position. Instead of gloating over how many white people they kept, they should be looking at all of the people that they LOST and and why. God knows, Romney wasn't likeable but it was the rigid social, dare I say religious, positions that blew the election. As an Independent, I would say that their best hope for 2016 is Chris Christie. He earned the Nation's respect during Sandy. He is a hero. People like to vote for a Hero. Romney is decidedly not a hero. Figure it out.

    November 16, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  6. sunRise

    Republican party has becoming an extreme group of people. They are unpatriotic (secession talk) and self-centered. They are distracting us from dealing with major social issues and accomplishing strategic goals of this great nation. All I hear from them is "fighting this" and "fighting that" day in and day out. It really is getting old.

    Can't they work with whoever in white house and start to put the country rather than the party first? Please do something for the country!

    It begins to irritate me like a non-stop barking dog.

    November 16, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  7. Anonymous

    The party still stands for values that many Americans hold dear. They hold the purse strings in business. They are mad as hell. They just ran a bad man that could not connect with the average voter of today. They had high level white men say stupid things that scared the hell out of women. They have a fringe in the tea party that are paranoid and crazy. That being said they got 48% of the vote. Watch out dems, these guys are not going to roll over. They will shine up their image and make a strong case in the midterms if things don't start to change in Washington. The other strong hand they have is in local elections, they can outspend their opposition significantly which helps them up the ballot.

    November 16, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  8. demogoat

    The party still stands for values that many Americans hold dear. They hold the purse strings in business. They are mad as hell. They just ran a bad man that could not connect with the average voter of today. They had high level white men say stupid things that scared the hell out of women. They have a fringe in the tea party that are paranoid and crazy. That being said they got 48% of the vote. Watch out dems, these guys are not going to roll over. They will shine up their image and make a strong case in the midterms if things don't start to change in Washington. The other strong hand they have is in local elections, they can outspend their opposition significantly which helps them up the ballot.

    November 16, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  9. IvotedearlyforObama

    I don't care who they run in 2016, after seeing how racist they are under Obama I will never vote for another Republican again.

    November 16, 2012 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  10. ChiTownArt

    The Republican party stands a chance if guys like Steele and Jeb Bush, and women like Olympia Snowe are in leadership positions. As head of the GOP, Rancid Heesabust couldn't even deliver his home state for Republicans. Hey GOP, get over your melanin thing and listen to the brotha.

    November 16, 2012 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  11. EncinoMan

    So happy to watch the in-fight. This discussion that the GOP is having has been a long time in the making and is only going to become more prevalent. Populations are shifting...quite literally, whites will fall out of the majority within a number of decades. If the GOP doesn't like having to chase a few minority votes they really aren't going to like being in the minority. Yes, times are changing and it's so much better to be on the side of civil rights. America has, perhaps, had a bumpy road from its conception at times (slavery, treatment of Indians, segregation, ect.) but in the perspective of history, one thing has remained self-evident. The side for civil rights will always win out, it's an AMERICAN TRADITION. Do we remember slave owners fondly? How about Joe McArthur? No, history celebrates those who protect civil liberties, not those who aim to defeat them. That is something the Republicans should keep in mind in moving forward as a party.

    November 16, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  12. Sam

    I wonder how long it would take Steele to realize he is in the wrong party to begin with. Finally he has started to make sense BUT no one in his party is listening. Time to jump the ship dude!

    November 16, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  13. JESSE james TAKE THEM TO THE STREET AND SHOOT THEM LIKE THE DOGS THEY ARE

    Nuff said . Renice prebust 2016

    November 16, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  14. Sam

    Also if GOP thinks that if they use a Latino that they would get Latino votes – also plays right into that stupidity. I am of Indian origin and my chances of voting for Bobby Jindal OR Nikki Hayley – who are also of the same origin – is just about ZERO. If their ideas don't mesh with mine I will not vote for them just because they of a certain race.

    November 16, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  15. OH WOW

    Okay. So Obama was giving away gifts? Let me get this straight – Obama implemented policies that favor poor Americans (whites too), gay Americans (white too), Latino Americans, young Americans (white too), female Americans (white too) and you call these gifts? I call them dividends of democracy. Ruling in such a way that most of the population will want to vote for you is called democracy.

    Romney wanted to give gifts to the 1% and the fact that he targetted only 53% of the population and lost is a victory for democracy.

    November 16, 2012 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  16. Russ in Md

    The biggest mistake that the RNC made was actually think the majority of Americans would have enough intelligence to look at the abysmal state Obama has put our country in and think that a change needed to be made. Unfortunately that was not the case and reading the posts on these boards is proof. The hate and greed of the progressive left is undeniable.

    November 16, 2012 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  17. NeutronJK

    The public will not elect an extremist to the presidency. They've shown this time and again. They won't put an extreme liberal or extreme conservative in that office. But still, you force a candidate in the primaries to proclaim his allegiance to conservative ideology, then when he's nominated have him try to quickly recast himself as a centrist in order to be electable. It just doesn't work. The public correctly sees this as just saying anything to get elected. The democrats will continue to control the white house as long as republicans do this.

    November 16, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  18. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    fernace – as a reminder, the person who originally articulated the New World Order was that great former director of the CIA named George H. W. Bush.
    As for Mike Steele, in general, at least he doesn't come across as an afterthought like Priebus. Steele tried to make his party face the hard truths that they refused to acknowledge. After their "victory" in 2010, they figured they didn't need him anymore. Well, as Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" It looks like Mike was right and all the rich white guys who couldn't tolerate him are wrong.

    November 16, 2012 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  19. Grahame Rhodes

    And Now they will once more do everything in their power to block any legislation AKA tax increases. While that may be popular when the economy goes bust in January the American people will look around for somebody to blame and that will finally (WE Hope) be the end of this version of the Republican Tea Party movement and their puppets in Washington

    November 16, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  20. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Michael Steele is having his day after being ousted as RNC chairman and replaced by Preibus.

    November 16, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  21. A little sad

    Stupid?

    Yesterday, McCain, who Obama beat in 2008, was screaming how he wanted answers on Benghazi, while blowing off the hearing.

    Romeny announced that the majority that elected had their votes bought. He lost decisively, and he just can't believe that he was not given the coronation he thinks he deserves.

    Yep, they're looking pretty stupid.

    Thank God Obama was re-elected.

    November 16, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  22. BADGUY

    Steele is the ONLY Republican, I've listened to, that has an "ounce" of believability.

    November 16, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  23. Larry in Houston

    WoW !! after listening to republican congressman Jeff Sessions this morning on Starting Point – a person has to laugh. I don't know if CNN will print this or not, but here's how to tell if they are really serious about that Fiscal Cliff thing. Once you find out that congress decides to take a couple weeks off for Thanksgiving, then combine that with another couple weeks OFF for Christmas, this will tell the Voters out there, if it's serious, or not. lol

    November 16, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  24. john h

    the G'O'P are just a bunch of old white men racists. trying to supress the minority vote what a shame" they are a disgrace to the american political process

    November 16, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  25. allens

    when you look at romney's response to his loss (thank god), you can see why we did not want him. what an ego! very dangerous guy. what is wrong with the gop

    November 16, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
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