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. Michael (Nashville, TN)

    Excuse me Mr. Steele, no one says "off the hook" anymore.

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

    They need to start by changing their actions....once you start showing that you care about the "Everyday American"...maybe people will start listening.

    Everyone is critizing Obama for his recent actions, but at least he's came up with solutions. No matter what he does, he cant save the world so cut the man some slack.

    February 19, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. Jon

    Michael Steele's appointment as RNC chair is the best news the Democratic Party has had since the election. Now if the Republicans can manage to get Sarah Palin back on the presidential ticket in 2012, the Democratic Party should start popping champagne corks.

    February 19, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. Navy Veteran in Florida

    Is he serious???????? "Off the Hook" "Urban Hip-hop settings" The repugs just don't get it do they?

    February 19, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. GJ

    Now the nation will learn what we in Maryland already know: Michael Steele is an all-talk empty suit who has never won anything or accomplished anything on his own.

    February 19, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. Matthew in Oregon


    February 19, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. J

    I thought I was reading the Onion for a minute there. I cannot believe he is actually serious.

    February 19, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  8. 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, how about the GOP just tell the truth see how that works first you might be surprised

    February 19, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  9. bear


    February 19, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. FoCo

    This is going to be a riot to watch.

    February 19, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  11. Anonymous


    February 19, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. Bonji

    Good luck, I am sure this will play well with the Republican conservative, christian base.

    February 19, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. eric in texas

    They reason the GOP is failing is because the conservative values are gone. Bush went on spending sprees and that is NOT conservative politics. The GOP can rap, play blues, sing country and dance swing but until they get back to their core, they will fail.

    February 19, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. Joe Black

    testing, testing....1,2,3, is this mic on?

    February 19, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. Rich

    Stuff it? Like they did with their pockets over the past eight years?

    Stuff it? My professional high-brow response, "Bite me!'

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  16. BJs

    The ONLY reason they chose this oaf to lead the "GOP" is because of Obama. Period.

    As far as telling critics to "stuff it" – No way – YOU stuff it where the sun don't shine! Actually, keep talking because everything you say will be used as ammo against you.

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. Rick

    I'll believe it when I see Q-Tip rapping about eliminating the captial gains tax.

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. Matthew in Oregon

    As if we needed a new reason to feel uncomfortable around Republicans.

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Bill Williams

    What a freakin' TOOL

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  20. TCM

    Mr. Steele, just don't sink to the level the democrats have merely to win votes...don't buy votes from homeless guys, don't coerce or intimidate people, like the black thugs did in Philly...don't scour the inner cities looking for ACORN cronies to do your business...all of these are paper thin attempts, and in the next four years we'll watch it unravel. Win voters back by following the Mantra of Aaron Schock....who, admittingly listens to the people that elected him! What a novel idea....to follow and vote on the wants and needs of constituents, despite harsh public humiliation attempts by the presidental thug......find republicans with the same "metal," as Schock, and the dems will go down the sewer, where liberals belong.

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  21. I can see Canada from my house!

    Hip-hop? Can't wait to see the video on BET.

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  22. Cathy

    Mr Steele and the rest of the Republican party all need to be put on Prozac...........completely delusional and irrational behavior
    The right wing keeps getting nuttier

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  23. I'd rather not say

    Is he serious or is this a joke?

    February 19, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  24. James

    You have to be kidding me, this has the feel of an mtv comedy that isnt really funny.....great, just when i thought we were pulling ourselves out of our stupidity. Reminds me of the Daily Show making fun of Wepubwicans during the election, apparently, they fell right into place.

    February 19, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  25. Bravo

    Too funny for words... I don't think that the African American population will buy it though. Obvious ploy to get (use, exploit) that demographic, and just about as disgusting and manipulative as the rest of the GOP tactics in recent memory.

    February 19, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
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