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. Jen King

    This guy's an idiot. The GOP failed because of the administrations failed war and other policies, not because they're not 'hip'. The younger generation went for Obama and registered as Democrats. He's not going to change that. And his appointment as minority leader was done simply because he's black. The GOP's answer to President Obama.

    February 19, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  2. Zach

    This guy is as out of touch as McCain, the republicans shoot themselves in the foot constantly. "Off the hook"? Give me a break, this guy is an idiot. This is like when your dad tries to use lingo to seem cool to you.

    February 19, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. DB

    Totally offensive language. Is this the new "cool, hip Republican party"? He sounds like a street thug. He could benefit from a few pointers from President Obama on class. This is why my state (MD) got rid of him - he was obnoxious - the RNC can have him!

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  4. Amy from Queens

    Just another example of how the republicans OUT OF TOUCH:

    Micheal Steele's "new" approach is using the word "midget". The word "midget" is not only dated but very politically incorrect.

    Not very encouraging.

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. jenn

    For a minute there, I thought I was reading The Onion. Then I realized that Steele was serious. So....

    As SpongeBob would say, "Well, good luck with that."

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. Bridget

    My side hurts from laughing. Michael Steele may have won the RNC Chairmanship race, but the guy who came in second only recently ended his membership in a whites only golf club. Think about that for a minute, GOP, before you start getting all "urban" and "hip hop" with your bad selves. You don't fool anyone.

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. Brad

    Good luck....

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |

    Until the GOP stops putting up and forcing on us dottering, drooling
    old white guys for President, whom none of us want, they will remain
    on the outside of the candy store looking in.

    P.S. I'm a dottering old white guy, who sometimes drools in my sleep.

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  9. Susan in NC

    Good luck, Steele - you're gonna need it! Your "Party of NO" needs more than "beyond cutting edge" technology - you need new faces and new ideas and new attitudes and new language, among other things. Democrats are united as never before and your battle is surely an uphill one - don't count on it!

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  10. Laughing my a$$ off

    Is this "off the hook" line some sort of joke?

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  11. Roony


    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  12. Greg in MN

    "People who said I can't make the trains run on time never gave a reason. I say to them, 'Stuff it.'"

    So, you are saying you're the same as a vicious dictator? OK, we'll stick with that comparison. Fine by me.

    Maybe if your weren't such a power hungry, "I look out for me only" party that does not care about other human beings you wouldn't have lost all your influence Mike.

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. markus


    they still don't get it.

    I don't care if the RNC advertizes on BET, at the Source Awards or on Telemundo...nothing is going to change until the MESSAGE, THE PLATFORM...WHAT THIS PARTY STANDS FOR...until all of that changes.

    what Republicans as a whole have failed to realize is that this country is changing, and they are still clinging to the same intolerant, non-inclusive rhetoric and principles that keeps minorities away from the party to begin with...

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. Marilyn

    This guy is a train wreck. What in the heck were they thinking electing him! If this is how the party is going about remaking itself there is not hope for it at all.

    February 19, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  15. Sam

    I can't take Michael Steele seriously.

    February 19, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  16. Rolland

    You don't need a new approach, you need a new determination to solve the nations major problems instead of always playing politics!

    February 19, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  17. demwit

    Nooooo!! Bigger government is the anwser!!!

    February 19, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  18. geoff

    Once the Republicans get past being sneering, patronizing, grumpy, arrogant reactionaries, we might pay attention to what they have to say. But judging by their talk radio mentality, I'm not expecting much for a while.

    February 19, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. Don't get it

    Sounds like the same old same old "My way or the highway..." Oh wait I get it Dick Cheney with bling. wassup!

    February 19, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  20. I can see Canada from my house!

    Well, the voters will tell him to stuff it if he continues to spout the same tired rhetoric of the past. Avant-garde means a constant process of rigorous experimentation, or pushing the limits. You can't do it with the same ideas in a "..hip-hop setting." As our president said, " if you put lipstick on a pig, its still a pig." Steele will deliver nothing new unless he recruits moderates into the party, and that will not happen.

    If nothing else, the efforts and results should be amusing.

    February 19, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  21. Rodney - Asheville, NC

    "Off the Hook"... Really? Good luck reforming your image as a party of the future, when the head of your party is using slang that went out of style 10+ years ago. Out of touch as usual. I hope that being "groovy" and "def" work out for ya.

    February 19, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  22. stanton g. cummings


    February 19, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  23. tess

    this is exactly the man we need to put the republicans back on track! we have had mushy-mouth people who have been afraid to tell the truth and steele is just the one to bring back "steel" spines that have been missing!!! go michael – you are right on and you will see the support begin to swell as we get out bearings back!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 19, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  24. Bob in NJ

    For a good laugh, just imagine this message being given this way at the Republican National Convention last summer. Hip-hop? Much of the modern-day GOP just had their hips replaced.

    February 19, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  25. Rorschach

    Yo, yo, yo, DJ Rapmaster JJ McCain in in the house! Somehow I don't see this working too well with the GOP mainstream.

    February 19, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
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