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. EBC

    Micheal Steele is so out of touch all you can do is laugh at the man.

    LOOK how ridiculous the new RNC Chairman looks trying to be COOL!! This man looks like an over-grown Erkle!!!

    He's NOT cool, he looks and sounds like a clown trying to sound cool and hip by talking, when it fact he just sounds whack!!

    Cool is a "state of mind, its being COOL without having to BRAG about being cool. For example...

    President Obama is SO VERY, VERY COOOOOOL....
    Paul Newman was so COOOL...
    MLK was very COOOOOL.
    Robert F. Kennedy is COOOL
    Myles Davis was COOOOOL
    Micheal Jordan is COOOOL...
    Magic Johnson is COOOL....
    Jaqueline Kennedy was so very COOOOL....
    Mandela is COOL...
    Dr. J was seriously COOOOOOOL....
    Mahumaad Ali is COOOL
    President Lincoln is COOOL
    BB King is definitely COOL....
    Colin Powell is COOOOL....
    Sean Connery is definitely COOOL
    Robert Redford is COOOL....
    Will Smith is off the chain COOOOL.....
    Brad Pitt is COOOL....
    Sen. Ted Kennedy is COOL....

    These people are COOL because they DID NOT BRAG about being cool, or have to ADVERTISE what made them cool. They exhibited cool and it was evident in the way they carried themselves throughout their lives.

    Steele is quoted as saying: “We missed the mark in the past, which is why we are in the crapper now.” NO, you and your party is in the CRAPPER because you guys SUCK at implementing policies and continue to spew failed ideologies and obstructionist behavior!!! Your party is not looking out for the middle man and his family. Bottom line.

    The fact that you claim you "don't do cutting edge" is a clear indication of your incompetence when it comes to the 21st Century.

    Despite Steele's talking trash snippets, the RNC and GOP are strictly controlled by the same OLD WHITE SOUTHERN MEN who are determined to run this country with the same old and tired failed policies. They are still living in the Reagan years. I hope Steele continues to put on this "I'm cool" theatrics because it only makes his defeat all the more sweeter.

    February 19, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. MD Mike

    An interesting and refreshing approach. I do wonder how many of the "Hip-Hop" suburban Republicans missed this approach in the last election cycle. Hmmmm....

    February 19, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  3. 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?

    If the republicans had ACTED like the conservative party that stands on principles for the last 8 years we would not be having this conversation.

    February 19, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  4. Kona Kim

    I believe the correct term is "little people", midget is a slur, what a jerk! And the hip-hop RNC, what??? He is trying to be cool, and believe me the RNC is anything but cool! And if he thinks that inner city folks will embrace the RNC then he is crazier than I thought he was. Does he not realize the only reason why he got this job is that his rich, white friends are trying to act as if they care about the common person? Now that is even a bigger joke. All they care about is making the rich old white men of this country even richer. The RNC is on it's way out, thank Goodness! I am sick of them.

    February 19, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  5. Heather in SoCal

    Didn't they already try this with the GOP rapper about 15 years ago? But hey maybe SNL can help them out - from the Palin episode: "All the mavericks in the house, put your hands up! All the plumbers in the house, pull your pants up!""

    February 19, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  6. JL from Florida

    BWAAaaahhh, HAW HAW!!!!

    You can't make this stuff up!

    February 19, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. priyanka

    yes because anti gay, anti women, anti urban, anti immigrant, pro corporate, pro weatlhy policy will seem really attractive to gays, women, blacks, hispanics and the poor miraculously

    if the gop started believing in science rather than miracles, maybe they would have some hope

    February 19, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  8. NY republican

    To "Jes" – Mr. Holder is the Attorney-General for the Obama Administration (Democrat). MR. STEELE is the man this article is about (Republican).

    To all those crying "give Obama a chance" – I repeat your sentiment – give Mr. Steele a chance.

    February 19, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  9. Mike

    I see the liberal bed wetters are out in force. Cry baby cry come NOV2010.

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  10. jek

    Yeah, Mr. Steele, you are the epitome of hip and funkiness!! lol. Dang, why don't you just try to be yourself? I can't imagine too many Repubs gonna start wearing anything designed by Roca or Sean Jean!!! Well, maybe the one armed midget....

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  11. Mike P.

    One more thing Mr. Steele, you have just lost any hope of getting votes from people of short stature. I think you have just down-ticked your image before you have started. What will you say next, one-armed Mexican, one-armed Black, one-armed Jew? You just do not see to get it. Changing your image is not the problem. Changing your fundamental belief system is. In other words change your heart then the people will believe. Good luck with that!

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  12. LOL

    To Ben at 11:07am

    Awesome. Simply awesome. Thanks for the laugh!

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  13. STEVE R

    yo yo yo

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  14. Jonathan

    The only chance that the GOP has of EVER coming back as a dominant party is if they adopt the policies of Ron Paul.

    Its time for the GOP to drop neo-conservatism and adopt libertarianism. That is what the youth in this country want – they don't want ridiculous social policies and unnecessary wars. If the Republicans continue to stubbornly hold onto neo-con beliefs, trust me, they will die out within the next decade.

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. Sharon

    This mans desperate words and actions represent the dying gasp and flailing arms of a national party whose is observing its own death. Beware, standing too close is a threat to your life as the GOP will seek to grasp onto anything to prevent their own sinking, even if you are left to drown.......

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  16. Darryl Schmitz

    The Republican Party has rejected and ridiculed even its own, whenever one of them dares to question the party's disregard of the Constitution and abandonment of classical conservative, libertarian principles.
    What the current ctop of neo-rightists in the GOP hasn't already lost to third parties or even to the Democratic Party, it will lose to those who have become disgusted and apathetic about the party that has abandoned them and just stay home on Election Day.

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  17. Brad

    I dont know about one armed midgets, but one thing is clear...Steele is a mental midget.

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  18. Sean Chong

    I don't know how smart Mr. Steele can be if he cannot differentiate the meaning of "work" with "job", and he has no idea the real reason why the GOP lost. "Young" is a different crowd, as "young" doesn't mean their age, but their mindset. "Hispanic" doesn't mean the Latinos, but people who sympathize with the Latinos. And sorrowly, he's missing the other critical racial group, the Asians. Even if Asian populations don't matter (as we're too small to influence state), but Asians are the swing voters, they will be that 1-2% in some cases to swing the vote. If the Republicans have any ideas how they should be more inclusive.... they have no ideas.... if they carry on with this message... they're doomed... which isn't that bad, we're saved! Do you realize that Reagan and Bush are all liberal Republicans? If you vote for a liberal Republicans, you will simply go into deficit financing... typically, a Arnie is a liberal Republican. Well, the GOP doesn't have a head of their own... they just want to win badly. So their strategy is to put a liberal on their ticket.... that is a disaster. Reagan at his time looked good, but potentially a disaster... Clinton and Obama look more conservative than Bush and Reagan add together. The right president for the United States? A centrist Democrat. Trust me on that.

    February 19, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  19. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Steele is desperate to prove to the RNC that he can help the party but in his attempt he is only distancing the RNC from the people. We all know that desperation will lead to destruction with loss of respect and image. RNC just don't get it.

    February 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  20. 30m-Democrat-voted Clinton then McCain

    Sounds good to me. Let's defeat Obama in 2012. I'm ready!!!

    February 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  21. Daniel

    Midget, OMG

    Michael Steele come on! You are sure not the right person for this. Urban hip hop, Man you need to go to sleep with the rest of the GOP. sooooooooo out of touch with everyday people.

    GOP = LIES Big time, fear, division and nasty polotics with no character,etc. Give me a break! Michael Steele you are a freakin lunatic.

    February 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  22. Jessica

    I believe the correct term is "little people."

    February 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. Lennon for president

    this man is seriously dilluded you cannot talk about change if your party wants to keep everything the same...he is yet another GOP gimic to try and undermine President Obama...Steele's party is a joke, and their policies are failed, outdated, and no good from the beginning...Bush proved that with flying colors...good riddance to the GOP

    February 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  24. Beverly, NYC

    Really is he serious? Rap instead of country music. What's next, get Kayne West to say that the Republicans really do care about black people. Mr. Steele, it will take more than hiring a black man to reform the long held racists views of your party. Recommend you view the documentary Right America: Feeling Wronged. When you can cure what ever ails Hannity, Rush, and the other talk radio bigots you may have a starting point. Talking street will only reinforce the stereotypes you are trying to get past, and possibly get you fired.

    February 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  25. Joyce in Indiana

    When I first read this story, I thought I was on the wrong web page. Surely this must me something from "The Onion!"

    The GOP still thinks the problem people have with them is about image. It's not image, geniuses; it's a problem of SUBSTANCE, or the lack thereof.

    Funny stuff.

    February 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
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