The battle for a new chairman for the Republican National Committee is in full swing, but it’s a battle that has been largely overlooked by traditional media.
(Washington, D. C.)--GOPAC chairman Michael Steele spoke candidly on Monday about his goal to become chairman of the Republican National Committee. Explaining that his mother always told him if he wanted to do something he should “just get in there and do it,” he said he’s tired of hearing Republicans complaining. Steele summed up the GOP’s problems succinctly: lack of technology, lack of a message and lack of communications. “We’re running a 1980s playbook,” he added. Steele said he wants to see the party become more “21st century.” Steele's supporters are utilizing technology to get the word out.
The former lieutenant governor of Maryland has used technology for GOPAC, the organization founded in 1978 to focus exclusively on electing Republicans to state and local office. The GOPAC website is a one-stop resource for both candidates and voters, with interactive tools and information about the issues, polling and getting out the vote. The site has podcasts available for training and features GOPAC TV. Fans of Steele created a Facebook group and the website ‘Draft Michael Steele.’ That website said more than 6,000 supporters have signed a petition on behalf of their candidate.
Steele is charistmatic. He's a natural on camera and he thinks fast on his feet.
On the C-SPAN program, a caller on the Democratic line noted President-Elect Barack Obama’s popularity, saying he had inspired people aged 10-106. The caller then suggested Republicans like Steele are simply tokens of a political party trying to “put a black face…on old philosophies.”
Steele warmed to that question, noting the black community’s political home was actually the Republican Party. “We voted 90-10 Republican up until the 1960s.” Steele said Americans weren’t inspired by Obama’s policies—“they were inspired by his rhetoric.” Historically, Steele’s statement about the black community is correct. The GOP party founder was Abraham Lincoln. Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower pushed the first civil rights legislation and President Richard Nixon integrated public schools.
Steele is one of the few Republicans who is a nationally recognized brand—he is an analyst for Fox News and has a hefty public service record that includes being named a 2005 Aspen Institute–Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership and being awarded the 2005 Bethune-DuBois Institute Award for his ongoing work in the development of quality education in Maryland. Steele also has served on a variety of boards and commissions including East Baltimore Development Corporation, Export–Import Bank Advisory Board, the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors, and the Republican National Committee.
The Maryland attorney is part of a field of candidates that includes Michigan RNC chair Saul Anuzis and South Carolina chair Katon Dawson. The influential conservative website Red State said current chair Mike Duncan wants to retain his own leadership. Red State was less than kind to Duncan, running a column titled, ‘Mike Duncan is an idiot.’ Red State posted questions for RNC candidates a few weeks ago. According to a Dec. 8 column by Erick Erickson, candidates haven't responded. Red State is a by-the-book conservative website with a great deal of influence on traditional party members.
The RNC will decide who will lead the party on January 20, 2009. Meanwhile, all the candidates are lobbying for supporters. There’s even a blog ‘RNC Chairman Candidates Tech Index’ that rates each wannabe on the basis of technical resources and web savvy such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Steele has his own blog, ‘Steele for Chairman,’ and that website offers interactive content as well as traditional blog posts.
The battle for party leader of an embattled party is underway, but traditional media are late to the table in sharing that narrative with readers. One commenter at Red State, critical of Duncan, said, “[t]he sad thing is that the GOP’s bigwig consortium really is stupid enough to vote him back.”