January 8th, 2010
11:28 AM ET
13 years ago

Republicans question Steele's leadership at RNC

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/29/art.steelem.0929.gi.jpg caption="Congressional GOP aides expressed their frustration over their perception that Michael Steele is using his book tour to undermine the party's political message."]Washington (CNN) - Several GOP congressional sources on Wednesday's daily morning conference call among Republican communications aides on Capitol Hill and the RNC described it as a session where congressional GOP aides unloaded their frustration over their perception that Michael Steele is using his book tour to undermine the party's political message.

"It was ugly, but something that needed to be done," says one of the GOP congressional sources who took RNC aides to task on the call.

Several GOP sources on the conference call tell CNN they told RNC aides that they believe this has been a good political week for Republicans, but that several comments Steele has made during his book tour are "putting all of efforts and all of our bosses in very difficult positions and doing so unnecessarily," according to one of the GOP aides.

Specifically, congressional Republican sources tell CNN they were outraged that Steele went on Fox Monday and said that Republicans can't win back the majority in 2010. These sources tell CNN there was widespread anger that the statement would undermine GOP efforts at fundraising and recruiting.

Many GOP congressional sources and party strategists are also enraged that part of the chairman's book - and tour to promote it - goes through Republican mistakes in past elections. These sources say conceding Republicans lost their way was last year's message, and that the party chairman in 2010 should be looking forward, not backwards.

"He's on a GOP apology tour," said one of the GOP congressional aides who expressed his frustration on Thursday's call.

Steele himself - who canceled a last-minute interview with ABC for what the network said was described to them as an "emergency meeting" at RNC headquarters - dismissed that criticism Friday.

"Let's just say I've been in a little bit of trouble, but I don't care because I didn't write this for them," he told CBN's David Brody. "...[S]taffers who are trying to get the chairman on message or muzzle the chairman - it's a book they don't want you to read. They don't want you to read this book, because a guilty conscience is a funny thing."

The RNC officially has no comment on the call, but an RNC aide who was not authorized to speak on the record said: "He is the RNC chairman, but it's his book, it's his voice."

Some of Steele's defenders say he is simply speaking the truth – the Republican brand is not yet rehabilitated – and that the content of his book and book tour is appropriate.

Former House GOP speaker Newt Gingrich, who wrote a foreword in Steele's book, released a statement Friday defending and promoting it

"This country is an overwhelmingly center-right nation. As Chairman Steele urges, Republicans just need the courage and clarity to communicate our shared values effectively," said Gingrich.

But several GOP strategists said there is broad concern about a Republican party chairman writing and promoting a book, that he will profit from, at a time where he should be focused entirely on building back the party.

"This isn't about him and he needs to take a more back scenes role and spend the time nescessary to help our candidates win not to try to sell a book or make himself famous," said John Feehery, a GOP strategist and former top congressional aide.

Multiple Republican sources confirm to CNN a big concern is that donors are not willing to give to the RNC because they don't trust Steele's leadership, and even worse, according to sources, they're not even being asked.

One former senior Republican party official in close contact with GOP donors tells CNN that the continued controversy surrounding Steele is affecting the party's fundraising fortunes.

"First, major donors are not being asked to give, and second, they're not confident the money will be spent well," said the former official, "and it's because of him [Steele]."

Filed under: Michael Steele
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. lila

    Well, he moves by the beat of his own drum. There is charm in that.. even if it takes the goose stepping GOP of message.

    January 8, 2010 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Hammerer

    Steele is the type of politican that needs to be exposed for what he really is, a politican with his hand out just like the ones now in Washington now. The voters should remove all of them from government and try to elect some honest representives.

    January 8, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  3. ugogrl

    Well Steele you keep up your book tour! Your telling the truth and the party of NO will get NO where if they dont get their act together. African Americans are just simply democrats all the way not rethugs.

    Obama/Biden 2012
    Hillary/Michelle Obama 2016

    January 8, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. ugogrl

    RNC sucks!

    January 8, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  5. Donnatella

    I love it.

    January 8, 2010 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  6. all the news that's fit to omit

    Steele is a good man and the Republican cowards need to shut up that are backstabbing him, the MONEY IS FLOWING IN nitwits.

    He did misspeak about a few things and he did make a mistake earlier this week, bring it up in private and then shut up about it.

    No fan of Limbaugh at all, and if they somehow alienate the rest of us that don't march in lockstep with him by removing Steele, they will lose me and many others.

    Discuss, reprimand and Shut up.

    January 8, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  7. Tim

    What Leadership? Now if you mean follow the leader and kiss his butt, then you are talking about Steele!

    January 8, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. CBass

    Funny how republicans can stand up to Steele and grovel to Rush. Than they want us to believe Rush is not the leader of their party.

    January 8, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. Squigman

    It's easy to question anyone who would vote for a republican. The fact that they get any votes at all astounds me.

    January 8, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  10. B

    If the RNC keeps this Idiot around, it will be their continuing downfall..

    January 8, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. Chas in Iowa

    Steele is not a GOP leader. He is a GOP spokesman,...you would have to get around behind him to see who is pulling the strings running his mouth.
    This guy was put in place during the election to make the GOP look as if they are not a bunch of rich old white guys.

    January 8, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. laurence

    I'm willing to bet money (I) don't have that CNN won't post this comment. (You know the drill - (Your comment is in moderatiion). Nevertheless here goes. The GOP is about as fair and decent as a room full of crooks and robbers. Oh and not to mention the sizable group of bigots among them. As long as it appeared that Steele would pit Africa Americans against each other thereby peeling off substantial numbers to be (used) by the GOP, they swallowed hard and held their collective noses. Steele made some hay with some his comments aimed at somehow belittling the President, but alas, he knows a skunk when he smells one and the GOP smells about as bad as a dead and stinking skunk. Let' s please not forget the "teapart(yer's)" either. I don't think this nation as seen such hate since Alabama and Mississippi in the 50's? Watch out for those 'party of Lincolner's" too, what they fail to make clear is that in the 40's and the 50's the two parties basically switched personel. Why you ask? Because the Republicans who weren't so fond of minorities and the ole' ' Dixiecrats' of the south who really didn't like the fact that minorities were a part of their party threw in together to form what you have today in the GOP. But something happened last year, a black man won the (White)house. The rest is history in the making. You can take one thing to the bank though, this country will become something it would rather not as this year unfolds. I happen to be a Democrat with conservative values, but that doesn't mean I think that I'm better then anyone else.. I say let everyone make their arguement with respect and come up with the best solution. The GOP's only solution along with the teapart(yer's) is to get the black man out of the (White)house by any means necessary. Well Mr. Steele, are you certain you want to be a part of that madness? Remember, to them, you look a whole lot like president Obama. Whether its with both eyes open or with one eye closed.

    January 8, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  13. Mary Ann in VA

    Mr Steele is done as the chairman. I believe because he does not tow the party line the GOP has decided to try and muzzle him and then get rid of him as soon as possible. The GOP must change it's message and realize that the country is a center-right country. The far right is ruining the GOP.

    January 8, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |