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. steve

    The problem is what they really believe. They can lie and spin as much as they like, but at its core the Republican party believes the 47%, a woman's place is in the home cooking, gays are an abomination, poor people choose to be poor..........

    November 16, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  2. Rick

    Why did the Republicans lose this election? Simple... the candidate was HORRIBLE. The only worse candidate was McCain in 08. Is this the best and brightest my Republicans have to offer? Get real.....

    November 16, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  3. Energizer Bunny

    "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."

    Therein lies the GOP conundrum: trying to refit the message "we really don't like you folks, but we're gonna try telling you in a nicer kinder gentler way that we really don't like you folks". Not a winning solution except perhaps in the minds of Republican fools. The 2008 and 2012 election hit home just how much Gopers really don't like folks ... lots and lots and lots of folks.

    November 16, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  4. Anthony

    My recommendation is this. Make real changes. Don't just try to change how the other side thinks about you. Republicans have been making noises that they don't have to change their policy positions; they just need to change people's perception about them. People's perception about the Republican Party is based on their policies, which have not changed in over 30 years. Republicans want more tax cuts and fewer regulations. Just by talking and acting like moderates, like Romney did in the debates, won't work because people judge you by your actions, not words.

    Words are meaningless when they are not supported by actions. Romney said before the election that he was completely wrong about the 47%, but after the election he said that Obama won by giving away gifts to different groups. This means that he still thinks that Obama's supporters just want free stuff from the government. Apparently, Romney is not alone among Republicans in thinking that way. We have news for them. If Republicans don't stop insulting people on the other side, we will do to them in 2016 what we did to them in 2012.

    November 16, 2012 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  5. Larry in Houston

    @ Joe from Ct, not Lieberman – - you're right, as soon as the 2010 midterms were over with, LOL – they thought they had everything in the bag – so to speak – lol – btw – I do remember gomer pyle's remarks – seems like he said that a lot.

    November 16, 2012 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  6. ru serious

    Shallow electorate, thrives on celebrity.

    November 16, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  7. mommytwice

    the GOP lost the election again because of this: at the core, the conservative movement has been taken hostage by the far, far right, and no one in the party has the guts to stand up and say no to them. The general population isn't interested in far right OR far left ideas...most of us are pretty central. When you allow an entire political party to be taken over by the extreme fringe element, you get lost elections. So, as a voter, my advice would be to stop paying money and attention to Limbaugh, Hannity, and the like, and start moving back to middle ground of relative sanity. Until they are willing to abandon the right wing nut jobs and their hold on the party, they are doomed to lose elections.

    November 16, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  8. slipthalo

    The Brits didn't call him 'Mitt the Twit' for nothing – his campaign ran on the idea that facts didn't matter, people should just buy his lies and wait for him to flip again. The Republicans are too focused on running our private lives, making sure the rich are taken care of and anything President Obama and the Democrats are for, they're against AND following the Conservative Far Right media (Rush etc) like little lemmings. Sad to see what was a Grand Old Party go down the road to oblivion...........

    November 16, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  9. Daverelentless

    Hilarious, Romney blames his loss on others. Indeed. It was his antiquated message, his unsubstantiated giveaways to the rich, his quailing at showing his taxes, and his promises of Pie-In-The-Sky that did him in. I guess he's just reacting to the taste of REALLY sour Grapes.

    November 16, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  10. Retired Army Officer

    GOP is lost and adrift. They haven't got a clue; all they do have is anger and hate towards others.

    After the disdain and the years (decades, really) of vilification that the GOP has aimed at minorities, is it any wonder why they've rejected the GOP?

    November 16, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  11. lindaluttrell

    Mittens was bad enough. I think what turned women and other younger voters off were the likes of Akin and McCourmack! The things that fell out of THEIR mouths!

    November 16, 2012 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  12. Detada

    The GOP is neither smart nor humble enough to admit that they should have stuck with Michael Steele. They made him head of the RNC because Barack Obama won in 2008. Steele's race made it easier for the GOP to attack the president while claiming their attacks had nothing to do with race. When they "thought" they had achieved their goal, they kicked Steele to the curb. That was foolish on their part and it is even more foolish for Michael Steele to stick with the GOP.

    November 16, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  13. Nurse143

    let's not forget Steele's ouster was in the wake of outrageous spending – new office, visiting a strip club on donations from grandmas, etc. They play the morally / spiritually superior card but don't walk the walk – with fervor they care about a fetus, but absolutely won't help to feed, house or educate the kid who is a worthless leech to them until old enough to join the military. Women's votes are good, but stay in the kitchen and pay no attention to the hard-won liberties the men behind the curtain are trying to remove. They'd like the votes of Latinos but after the election would prefer if they self-deport. Racist elitist hypocrits deserve to be ignored by the populace.

    November 16, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  14. Secret Service

    "Stainless" Steele was supposed to bring the black vote trotting over to eagerly vote Republican. Why? Well, he's black. Black people are simple and childlike, and will trustingly follow any familiar face because- wait, what? That's not true? Oh. Well, no wonder he wasn't very effective.

    November 16, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  15. Andrew

    I don't like the "Real Americans" (eg. republican voter) comments and the way the gop says that we're idiots if we don't choose a republican. Now I'm not talking your random internet poster saying were idiots, that the party line, trumpeted over and over.

    November 16, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  16. Adorkable

    Mitt Romney's loss what largely because he failed to connect with a broad spectrum of voters and convince them his plans were a superior alternative to the present day policies. He was strident with the far right, vague and ambiguous on specifics of his policies, and the result was he was married 'de facto' to some of the most hard-hearted policies the far-right could offer up and still be considered tethered to the planet – although that is debatable by many.

    November 16, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  17. ja

    how can you want the job and exclude over hal of the electorate, it is elementry people, the gop has become unpatriotic and mean, the abortion matter was settled years ago, you make it new again, if my ciallis is covered why can't birth control be covered, and on immigration, everybody is immigrats except the native american indians

    November 16, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  18. LegalizeReason

    Why do the Republicans think they lost because of mistakes? The only mistakes are in their policies that the American people rejected. Live with it and learn from it.

    November 16, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  19. Thomas

    When I think of Romney or McCain , what comes to mind is two angry old sniveling losers who thought of themselves as entitled .

    And to think they wanted my vote .

    November 16, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  20. Now you figure it out?

    Republican gov and sec of state changing polling sites, changing rules, making ballots longer were all thought of an encouraged by the new republican hound dog Preibus the weasle. It backfired, he should be fired, and those states that tried keeping minorities from the polls should be investigated and prosecuted.

    November 16, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  21. Thomas

    McCain or Romney , who with any understanding would vote for ether of them.

    Look at McCain , he looks like he's lost in the park.
    Romney is still working on his expectancy speech inside his car elevator .

    November 16, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  22. rs

    We now have a visible measure of how far to the right the GOP has shifted in the past few years. When the GOP gave Steele the boot, he was a supporter of the newly radical TEA Party; he boldy fefamed the President and Democratic leaders and he was a gross-spender. Today he look lik Einstein compared to the current GOP leadership and Mr. Romney. That is a huge shift- and it isn't because Steele got better- the GOP got worse.

    November 16, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  23. Expat American

    The highly stupid election year(s) began in 2010 when the GOP welcomed the hate-filled, xenophobic bigots from the Tea Party Right Fanatic Fringe into the mainstream. Then Romney professed his utter disdain towards the working middle class, minorities, seniors, veterans and women in every public statement that he made. I am not sure how the Republicans expected to win with a candidate who insulted the majority of the electorate and a base who thrives on an outdated 1920s ideology.

    November 16, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  24. What a difference an election makes

    I'm guessing that the Republican party doesn't really want to change, however, they do need and want the Hispanic vote. What did Clinton say about arithmetic? Whites + Hispanics = Republican majorities in perpetuity!

    November 16, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  25. Data Driven

    Let them become solely the party of the old Confederacy–who cares? The rest of us will get on with the business of managing the country.

    November 16, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
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