February 19th, 2009
02:16 PM ET
14 years ago

RNC chair plans 'off the hook' campaign, tells critics to ‘stuff it’

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/art.steele.gi.jpg caption="Steele plans an agressive PR push for his party."](CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an "off the hook" public relations campaign that will update the GOP’s image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

The new GOP leader told the Washington Times that the party’s defeat in states like North Carolina and Virginia made it clear they needed a new approach.

“We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section...” he said in an interview published Thursday. “We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”

He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

Steele described the new multi-platform PR offensive as “avant-garde, technically. It will come to [the] table with things that will surprise everyone - off the hook.” Asked whether that meant cutting-edge tactics, Steele demurred. “I don't do 'cutting-edge,’” he said. “That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge.”

Steele, who began a massive personnel overhaul at the RNC shortly after his election, said he has started meeting weekly with congressional Republicans. He said he’ll be gathering input from House and Senate leaders, not giving instructions - but criticized national Republican leadership’s focus on party unity as a top priority, saying the failure to devote itself instead to developing fresh faces had cost the GOP.

“We missed the mark in the past, which is why we are in the crapper now,” he said. “We had the White House, the Senate and the House and were not building a farm team over the last years. We could have been ahead of Democrats and their 50-state strategy.”

Steele dismissed the assessments of some Republicans that he needs a deputy to handle areas like logistics, fundraising and candidate recruitment. “I can run this organization just fine,” he said. “There will be no deputy chairman, period. ...People who said I can't make the trains run on time never gave a reason. I say to them, 'Stuff it.'

“I am not afraid of being held accountable for my leadership,” he said. “The idea I am somehow going to handicap myself before I begin is nuts. I am not going to buy into this mind-set among a few people who probably have never run anything but their mouths.”

Steele defeated a crowded field last month, including sitting RNC chairman Mike Duncan, to claim the party’s top spot.

Filed under: Michael Steele • RNC
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. Hayden Zeke

    Urban suburban hip hop settings will really play well in the North Carolina Blue Ridge mountains, won't it?

    February 19, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  2. Had It

    Won't work. That Steele is an idiot. Can anyone say reverse racism?

    February 19, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  3. Mr. Sandman

    Steele: "“... we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”

    Yikes. Be careful Republicans. Your new hip-hop image may be as effective as my father's awkward talk to me about sex and drugs when I was a teenager.

    I just don't think you've got it in you to pull it off, but good luck.

    February 19, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  4. New Era

    If it walks like a duck... quack like a duck... it's a duck no matter how you try to dress it up. I wish the Republican party would just disappear. I'm sick of them.

    February 19, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  5. truthsayer

    Whats he talking about????!!!!!

    February 19, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Greg in Colorado

    Yah Good Luck With That. I feel like they are the grandpa trying to wear Abercrombie and Fitch clothing. Realize your done!!!

    February 19, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  7. Susan from S Illinois

    Sounds to me that the Republican Party has slighted one-armed midgets with this speech! They owe them an apology!

    February 19, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  8. yuri

    Steele has, once again, stolen the lime light. He wants to make GOP
    " a conservative party that stands on its principles", but we have failed to hear him say " a party of the people, by the people, and for the people" as thundered by GOP's founding father, the one and only, Abe, the legendary icon of US presidency.

    He also, apparently, hopes to take the party beyond " cutting edge" whatever that means. With unsmiling GOP congressmen and senators who are being nominated for Nobel Prize or an Oscar in obstructionism, it will be quite an upheaval task, Mr. Steele.

    February 19, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  9. SFV

    Uummmerrah "urban-suburban hip-hop settings"? WTH is that supposed to mean? Steele, you were not liked before and you are not liked now. Repubs are definitely trying too hard......

    February 19, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  10. Loud & Proud Leftie

    Thanks-the funniest article in a long time. I definitely needed a laugh. A hip/hop GOP!

    February 19, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. george

    Did he really use the term "midget?" I guess it takes courage to acknowledge lack of appeal, but every phrase he uses makes him seem even more out of touch. And, seriously, "midget?"

    February 19, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. Justin Motion

    He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

    Are you serious!? Not only is that offensive, but it resembles marketing strategies when a cheap product (GOP) requires a celebrity(in this case the 'one-armed midget') to sell there crap.

    If acquiring your first Black chairman is your response to Obama, then you will fail. Very similar to McPain having Palin on his team to get all those Hillary fans.


    You are spending how much on a lost cause?

    if they even act at all.

    February 19, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  13. DB

    This man's choice of language is offensive. He needs a few lessons from President Obama on class. He sounds like a street thug - I don't think people will buy it as hip and cool.....please. This is why my great state of Maryland got rid of him. We saw him for the nasty person he is.

    February 19, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  14. Rob

    What mr. steele needs to really do is stuff his evil party. The gop needs to be eliminated as a party due to their clearly evil intentions.

    February 19, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  15. Dave

    “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

    'Stuff it.'

    Wow. Glad to see that the Republicans are still keepin' it classy!

    February 19, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  16. khif

    He sounds like a 80 year old man trying to sound hip... lol Good luck with that one... G-Money, make sure you get all up in that grill... LMFAO

    February 19, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. Iguana Victim


    What's up homie? How's yer summer house, dawg?


    Cool, cool. Yo, you wanna check da Nasdaq?


    February 19, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  18. tigerakabj

    Oh man, in between the obstruction and crazy trash talk of Boehner, Cantor, and Linsday Graham, there are going to be many laughs over the next couple of years.

    Who would have thought that the GOP could find another Palin so quickly? I mean this guy just said on Fox News (and you know the Repubs couldn't miss that since it's their channel) "At this point there is no reason to trust us."

    Just like the campaign with Palin, what a gold mine Steele is for the Democrats. On top of that, this "hip hop" talk is making the racists re-examine why they are still part of the GOP party (what a great guy to turn out the southern vote).

    Carry on Mr. Steele!

    February 19, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  19. Carl from MI

    What a joke!!

    Because the Republican Party is the party of INCLUSION!!

    Republicans represent the wealthy and Corporate America, period!!

    Now they want to be the party of hip-hop? As if America isn't going to see right thru another false Republican claim. Remember 'Contract with America'?

    What a joke!!!

    February 19, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. jes

    Mr holder...why are you trying to recruit people whose interests you care nothing about? That is why your party is failing. Not because you don't know how to spin things because that is one thing you do best. It is because less and less people are benefiting from the way you govern.

    February 19, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  21. SHIRLEY "60"

    Michael Steele is an arrogant, untruthful person, and really would fit in the GOP if he were not African American very well. That party will never accept you, no matter what you think, unless you do their dirty work for the next four years. But what does that say about your character in your real community. Like Burris, you are willing to do anything for a position, but in the end what will you get? Probably a kick in the pants which is what you will rightly deserve.

    February 19, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  22. Cleaning up after W

    "Off the hook" PR campaign, huh? That's wonderful! Because that's all that's wrong with the GOP these days, right? Just public relations? It couldn't be the outdated ideological views or the policies that have been proven ineffective time and time again. It couldn't be the fact that the party takes its marching orders from a pill-popping, hypocritical racist (i.e. uncle Rush), right? Any plans to fix those things? Because if the GOP doesn't start there, all the PR campaigns in the world won't change a thing and the GOP will remain an irrelevant party.

    February 19, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  23. Ben

    Yo, Yo, Yo. Unnecessary and unwarranted wars, low taxes for the rich, destructive environmental policies in the house. Word to your mother, one-armed midgets.

    February 19, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. Mari

    Mr. Steele:

    The REASON your party lost, and will (God willing) lose again and again is because (pardon me for yelling)..... AMERICA REJECTS THE VILE POLITICS OF THE GOP-FAR-RIGHT!

    We are sick and tired of hearing nothing except HATE......LIES........FEAR....... AND ......DIVISION. For example, during the presidential campaign of McCain/Palin, during their rallies they would insinuate that Obama was "paling around with terrorists" and the far-right-people would start yelling "KILL HIM" OR WORSE! America is disgusted with this type of campaign, and we spoke LOUD and CLEAR in November.

    Mr. Steele, unless and until the Republican party FREES itself from the death-grip of the AM Radio Haters like Limbaugh-the-comedian, Savage, Hannity-the-hater and "Faux News" you WILL CONTINUE TO .........LOSE.

    And now, during a crisis in our Nation what does your party offer? More lies, fear and division! NO solutions. NO help. NO support for a president who INHERITED Bush's Disaster!


    February 19, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  25. Dutch/Hampton Roads, VA

    Michael Steele is not hood and is sadly mistaken if he thinks he can conduct an urban agenda. The hip hop nation does not support the RNC. I don't care how "off the hook" he claims the campaign will be, Sarah Palin or John McCain can't step foot in Brooklyn or Compton. The RNC is for the rich. There aren't alot of rich people in the ghetto Mr. Steele. So unless you can reach out to the under priveledged, you guys don't stand a chance in hell.

    February 19, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10