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. Pepper

    Wow...Really there are no words to express how "off track" this guy is and the GOP! Wow!

    February 19, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. Jose in TX

    Ha ha ha. Well Obama has tricked out the White House and brought thugz life all up in there so why can't Steele do the same for the GOP. We all be ballin'!!!

    February 19, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. NY republican

    This should be interesting to watch.

    February 19, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. Alex

    Good luck Republicans, this guy is going to take you party to even lower lows that anyone ever thought possible.

    February 19, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  5. Susan L.

    What's he going to do? Get a group of Young Republicans (of course, young in their case means 45!) to go on America's Best Dance Crew to prove their Hip Hop Street Cred? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! Wow, the GOP is out of touch.

    February 19, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  6. Dexter in Houston TX

    "update the GOP’s image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."
    ARE YOU KIDDING ME....Listen Republicans, the idea that you can reach all Americans by changing your image will fail. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig.

    Until you can change the hearts and minds of those in your party to embrace ALL AMERICANS, you wil always get the same results.
    You guys are an embarrassment to this country.
    God Bless You

    DX in TX

    February 19, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. Jason

    So the Republicans are cutting age? We all know that is an oxymoron, so maybe Steele needs to work on his hypocritical semantics a little more... The republicans had their chance and they squandered it, probably should have thought about that before allowing the Neo-Cons to hijack the party...

    February 19, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |

    Anyone who says anything against Steele is a racist. After all, weren't we told that anyone who didn't vote for Obama is a racist?

    February 19, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  9. hmfh

    Hip Hop Republicans! I like it! Old white guys in gold chains really gets to the heart of what America is about.

    February 19, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  10. Brian MacDougall

    Oh, this will be good! Terrorist fist jab to Michael Steele!

    February 19, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. AnnMM

    Is it sad or funny that Jon Stewart did a skit on how to bring back the Republican party weeks ago and this was his idea (and it was hilarious) hip hop, street etc! ?

    The Republican party no longer exists, it is just political satire.

    February 19, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  12. Ravi

    Man, this dude needs to come back down to earth. I think it's great that Mr. Steele has high hopes. But surely he needs to realize that Southern Whites are not going to go along with hip-hop or urban anything, due to their intense fear of minorities. Good luck, Mr. Steele.

    February 19, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. Cindy

    Repackaging huh? Is this like, taking the same old gas guzzling Hummer, and calling it something new, sleek and spiffy?

    It's still a Hummer, man... and Republican's are still out of touch.

    It's the action, not the packaging. Voting in solidarity against the American people's wishes for a recovery package... you're still showing how out of touch you are. Wake up Mr. Steele!

    February 19, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  14. Ohio Man

    This guy is so out of touch... I guess he think that by speaking HIP HOP he will reach the young people ... lol.... wow ... young people are about common since trying to reach the youth is not about speaking slang or trying to use hip hop, because I doubt that Mr. Steal has some Jay-Z playing in the car while driving to work, so if your phony with ur message young people will see right through that .... just be honest is what anybody would want no matter how young or old they are...

    February 19, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  15. George the Democrat Obama fanatic.

    His strategy is in direct conflict with the leaders of the party. Rush, Palin and Hannety wont fit in at the BET Awards.

    Get real Steele stop selling out your race and culture for a couple of grand from the Republican Klan.

    February 19, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  16. beckyinOhio

    "We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles."

    Looks like? How about ACTING like?

    February 19, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  17. Realist

    First off...yeah...dont know what to say about that. The urban hi-hop voters are probably not even 10% of the voter base in the US...

    And for all the people trying to say 'one-armed midget' was offensive and awful get over yourselves, technically it is a subgroup, although small. And he is only saying they dont like the GOP either. Probably true. I am a two armed normal height person, call me that if you want. People are too PC and just looking for a reason to complain.

    February 19, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. Anthony

    Can anyone read this without bursting into laughter?

    'urban-suburban hip hop settings'..... huh? Is McCain going to start rapping about how hard it is in the hood?

    February 19, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. Jim

    Lots of folks here seem to want a one party system – for the GOP to just go away. That would make us like other communist or national socialist states?

    February 19, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  20. Mike P.

    Do the Republicans really think that they can change the image of their party by having a black face as the head of their party? This is just like the huge blunder that Sen. John McCain made by bringing on Sarah Palin to shore up his sorry campaign. He actually thought that she (Palin) would get the votes of the women who were upset that Hillary Clinton did not win the nomination. Did not happen.

    As long as the Republican party has people like Rush Limbaugh and other crushing conservatives who really do not have the interest of the people who are not wealthy at heart, then it does not matter who you have in front of the cameras, the people will see right through it. Just like we saw through Sara Palin.

    February 19, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  21. Terry, Dallas Texas

    You are kidding right? "Hip -hop setting"? I am sure that's going to go over well with the ultra right wing base that the GOP pinned their 2008 election hopes on. Let me scare you some more. What if these crazy plans that the Democrats are trying actually work? I'm not saying they will I'm just saying that what would happen if things improve by 2012? If you are this upset now I can only imagine how upset an Obama re-election would make you. You would start eating each other.

    February 19, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. Obama 2012

    He talks a good game, but we will see how he is going to pull all of this off.

    He will have a heck-of-a-time trying to convince the minorities that the RNC has their best interest at heart; especially when all the RNC does is cater to the rich -"white" echelon of the society.

    Mr. Steele and the RNC needs to review the Republican's convention video during the campaign and that will reveal to them why the Republicans lost and what they need to do to gain more support.

    They need to ask themselves what would a minority have to gain from being in their party. And, from a minority's point-of- view, the answer would be nothing at all. I'm not sure why Mr. Steele & other minorities are in the RNC because the "republicans" act as if they are not even in existence. And, when they do, they only use them just like they are doing Mr. Steele.

    February 19, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. Silly democrats, paychecks are for workers

    I really like Steele! I think that he will really do a good job in leading the GOP back to glory. The people did the right thing here, this is a strong man that clearly has the right idea about how to get the party back where it deserves to be. Wish you and the my fellow republicans the best of luck!!!

    February 19, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  24. SD Demo

    Steele is talented and an effective communicator, but the behavior of the Republican'ts in Congress and in states across the country will drive even more of the moderate "swing" voters away from them. The GOP faces its own "lost decade" no matter what changes they try to make. All it takes is a resumption of noise about the wedge issues like immigration, abortion, school prayer, etc. The poor elephants just can't help themselves!!

    February 19, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  25. Marc

    Tim Duncan? I think you mean Mike Duncan.

    February 19, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
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