Steele rips Republican party-building effort
July 30th, 2013
03:08 PM ET
9 months ago

Steele rips Republican party-building effort

Washington (CNN) – Michael Steele has a bone to pick.

After Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus announced a "50 state strategy" last week that will deploy paid field staffers in every state in a push to rebuild the GOP's stale voter contact operation, Steele, the party's former chairman, said he "had to laugh."

"I guess what's old is new for these guys," Steele said in a phone call to CNN. "They are finally realizing that gee, Michael Steele got it right. But no one has the balls to admit it."

Steele, who became RNC chairman in 2009 but was voted out of the post two years later, said the idea to build a nationwide get-out-the-vote infrastructure for Republicans was actually his - though he looked to Howard Dean's old 50-state model at the Democratic National Committee for inspiration.

"When I first came in, I talked about how we were going to engage the country as a whole," Steele said. "Remember, I got criticized for going to the far off places, like Puerto Rico and America Samoa. The last time I checked, they were part of the 50 state strategy. Which is why I went out to the places that were otherwise ignored by the national party. I was just kind of laughing as I was reading this story, and talking about this as if this is something new. Well, the structure for it was in place. The underpinnings of the strategy were in place, so this is nothing new."

Steele said he also invested heavily in the committee's coalitions department in an effort to reach out to minority voters in places long forgotten by Republican leaders in Washington.

Staffers at the RNC say they're perplexed by Steele's analysis.

"Sure, and Al Gore invented the Internet," party spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said when asked about his claims.

Steele's critics, and there are many in Washington, like to point out that the former chairman left the committee in 2011 with more than $20 million in debt and made few long-term investments in party-building efforts beyond touring the country and doling out special favors to his supporters on the committee.

Republicans on Capitol Hill also scoff when Steele takes credit for flipping the House from blue to red in 2010, a wave election that probably would have seen huge Republican gains with or without organizational assistance from the RNC and other party organizations.

If Steele did come up with a 50 state strategy, his vision differed markedly from the one currently being implemented by party officials.

The RNC has hired paid, full-time operatives to work alongside state parties and candidates in 12 states so far, and plans to fund hundreds of staffers and offices in every state, including Democratic-leaning ones, by the time the project is finished.

Their goal is to engage early with voters, with an emphasis on Hispanic and African-American outreach, in hopes of developing a robust get-out-the-vote operation that can compete with Democrats by the 2016 presidential election rolls around.

Steele calls the strategy a waste of money.

"That is stupid," he said. "Ask any state chairman that is going to be honest with you. Do they really want the RNC to pay someone to come into their state and tell them what do? Why not take the cost of that salary and those resources, give it to the state, let them hire their own people, and do the coalitions grassroots work that needs to be done. I don't need an outsider to come in. I don't need someone who is tethered to the Republican National Committee."

Steele said he adopted a model that gave state parties more latitude in formulating their voter outreach plans: "Develop your own plan, and I will fund that plan. Whatever that plan is, if it's reasonable and workable, you will get it, period."

"The key thing about those resources is they are better put to use by the state parties who know their people, who can get a better bang for their buck by using local talent, local vendors, local resources, as opposed to trying to cobble together this national strategy," Steele said. "I don't need these folks coming into Maryland who know nothing about Maryland, looking over my shoulder. Just give me the resources when I ask for them."

Priebus, the current party head, promises that the party's new strategy will be bottom-up rather than one-size-fits-all.

"Our approach at the RNC is to try and be as granular and community-based as possible," Priebus told CNN before his 50 state plan was announced last week.


Filed under: Michael Steele • Reince Priebus • RNC
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Mass confusion in the Guns Over People Shutdown Government tea potty. 2014 comes quickly for them

    July 30, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  2. I'm NOT a liberal

    And Obamacare is a train wreck.

    July 30, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. Laverne

    The do the same to Obama. They can't take a good idea from a black man, they always want to take the credit so let them, it is quite pathetic to be honest. Obama can suggest stuff that was even their own idea and the answer is no to their own idea, but since it is coming from him it is wrong, dead wrong! Still not sure why so much fear of the black man.

    July 30, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  4. Dumbas[R]ocks

    Steele said he "had to laugh". Hell, the rest of us with any brains have been laughing at the [R] clown car for almost 20 years now.

    And just so you know, if you're not one of the ones laughing, then you're one of the ones we're laughing at.

    July 30, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. ghostwriter

    Interesting. Steele is proposing letting the states handle themselves while Priebus is proposing a centralized mobilization.

    States rights vs the federal government.

    July 30, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  6. rs

    The GOP on GOP war continues, except that neither of these guys actually made any effective headway towards outreach. In fact under Pribus, it would appear the GOP is actively throwing away diversity with their hyper-radical social agenda. Oh, well, hopes for a real two-party system in America will remain on "hold" until the GOP wakes up- maybe losing a few more elections will actually be good for them.

    July 30, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  7. CB FL

    With a party chairman that looks like Pee Wee Herman, this guy has not a original ideas of his own. I hope the GOP keeps him he is good for the Democrats.

    July 30, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  8. anotherGDlefty

    Don't worry Michael, I laugh when Reince talks too....

    Reince Priebus
    Take out the vowels.
    RNC PR BS
    He was born for this job.

    July 30, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Our approach at the RNC is to try and be as granular and community-based as possible," Priebus told CNN before his 50 state plan was announced last week."

    Republicans will rue the day they ever gave Reince Priebus absolute authority for speaking for and heading a bottom-up organization to "get out the vote". Well, on second thought ... maybe not. Bottom up is exactly where the GOP stands today.

    July 30, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    "Steele's critics, and there are many in Washington, like to point out that the former chairman left the committee in 2011 with more than $20 million in debt and made few long-term investments in party-building efforts beyond touring the country and doling out special favors to his supporters on the committee."
    ----------------------
    They just don't want to give Steele credit for the 2010 elections. But, debt wasn't the problem for Steele. His problem were he scandalous use of party funds on expensive junkets.

    July 30, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  11. rs

    I'm NOT a liberal

    And Obamacare is a train wreck.
    ______________________
    Sort of off topic. Did writing a sentance that long hurt?

    July 30, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  12. chilly g

    michael your republican party really don;t want you,they want the republican party to be the party of whites not
    peoples like you, but you can continue to be a uncle tom because that all you are worth to the repiblican party.

    July 30, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  13. llmb

    Republicans can develop as many "50 state strategies" as they want. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. Republicans have degenerated in to a party of racist Southerners, old white men who want to live back in the 50's when all they had to to was show up, and ultra rich people who wish they had one vote for every dollar they stole from the people who work for them, but don't.

    July 30, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. sonny chapman

    Put Darrel Issa in charge of Repub. Party. He made millions of $ selling crap.

    July 30, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. anonoymous

    Gop may want to start by not supressing voters. The RNC need to tell the already elected officals to do their job and stop being the party of no. They realize the small communties that vote these nut jobs in are sorely out numbered when it comes to national elections. The middle class dont stand a chance if they ever have complete control.

    July 30, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. ????

    What, no stories about the Midget Mayor From New York getting his soda ban edict slapped down again?

    July 30, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  17. patNY

    Haven't they gotten the message by now? Those who they can't reach don't want to be reached under the current Republican Party Platform with its pro-rich economic policy and stone-ages social policies. No matter how many people they get out on the streets with clip boards asking people to vote for republicans, the party message will make all they encounter to run away.

    July 30, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  18. Data Driven

    Al Gore may or may not have invented the Internet, but that's a mixed metaphor. All I remember is that the GOP had a historic year when Steele ran things. It's called "scoreboard".

    It's also called "bitterness", as his reward for unprecedented GOP victories was getting booted. Expect more smack from Steele if Priebus tanks. (No, I'm not Jim Rome, I just grew up listening to him.)

    July 30, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    Reince Priebus is what happens when people eat far too much paste as children and then reproduce later in life.

    July 30, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  20. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Priebus is the sole architect of these voter ID laws. Michael Steele was a far better chairman.

    July 30, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  21. Phoney President Obama

    Just sour grapes from Steele. He's been taking pot shots for a while now. He really needs to find something better to do with his time.

    July 30, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Data Driven

    Al Gore may or may not have invented the Internet, but that's a mixed metaphor. All I remember is that the GOP had a historic year when Steele ran things. It's called "scoreboard".

    It's also called "bitterness", as his reward for unprecedented GOP victories was getting booted. Expect more smack from Steele if Priebus tanks. (No, I'm not Jim Rome, I just grew up listening to him.)
    -----------–
    Steele did have a remarkable year in 2010, but he had to go. But, his excessive and wasteful expensives on expensive lunches, trips, and conferences was making the entire Republican Party look like a pack of hypocrites. He was burning up cash faster than the Bush administration, which says a lot.

    But, that was the corporate culture of the 2000's. You can see it being resurrected in the phony scandals at the IRS with employees makng Star Trek videos and other "team building" efforts. I think most of the efforts worked because it allowed people to have fun and enjoy their jobs for a change, even if briefly. It gave others who do not attend something to strive for.

    July 30, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. tony m.

    Repukes are finished. They are all lying, cheating, losers. Long overdue to be gone. Good riddens.

    July 30, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  24. rs

    Just sour grapes from Steele. He's been taking pot shots for a while now. He really needs to find something better to do with his time.
    ________________
    Maybe. Maybe he's just trying to save the GOP from itself.

    July 30, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. tom l.

    @rs
    I'm NOT a liberal

    And Obamacare is a train wreck.
    ______________________
    Sort of off topic. Did writing a sentance that long hurt?

    If you're going to mock someone for their grammar it might be a good idea to do a "spell-check" before hitting send...

    July 30, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
1 2