Former RNC Chair: ‘We Need Messengers Who Look Like Me’

By Melanie Arter | November 14, 2012 | 9:54am EST

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele makes his remarks during a Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Oxon Hill, Md., Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

( – Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Sunday on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” that the GOP needs more diverse messengers.

“We need messengers who look like me. We need messengers who are Hispanic, Asian Americans, women, a cross section of folks who represent communities across the country,” said Steele, who served as RNC chair from 2009 to 2011 and is also former Maryland lieutenant governor.

“I think from the Democrats’ perspective, they got an affirmation of the policies and the direction that the president articulated. Now as a Republican, I would argue there wasn’t much articulation there, but be that as it may, I think that they showed two things,” Steele said when the host asked him what happened Election Day.

Steele said the Democrats excelled at getting their people to the voting booth and were successful at picking up seats in the Senate – “one of those firewalls that the Republicans needed.”

“One, politically, they are superior in terms of their ability to get their vote to the table and the voting booth. And secondly, I think from a policy standpoint which particularly with the pickup in the Senate – I think a lot of people kind of looked at the Senate as one of those firewalls that the Republicans needed,” Steel said, calling it a “come-to-Jesus” moment.

“To pick up two seats was a profound effort as well, and it really kind of makes the policy discussion take on a very different hue than it otherwise would. And I think for the Republicans, it was one of those come-to-Jesus moments politically where they have to reassess and re-evaluate exactly whether they want to be a relevant political party going forward,” he added.

“And how do you do that?” the host asked. Steele replied that the GOP needs to get out of the “old mindset that I believe that they’ve been stuck in.”

“For at least, I like to say, for two bright shining years, we were able to prove that you can win coming off the ash heaps of 2006 and 2008, the brand is in the tank. People aren’t joining the party. The money is nowhere to be found, and we were able to pull around, turnaround by doing one very simple thing - empowering the state parties to build a grassroots operation on the ground,” Steele said.

He said during his time as head of the RNC, he modeled his chairmanship after former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean “with the 50-state strategy, putting emphasis on states where Republicans had not typically won in the past, to go in there and not try to win it all, but to win some, win a county council’s race, win a mayor’s race, win a state legislative race, and to build that from the bottom up, to have a message that resonated with folks.”

“And I think a lot of that was missing in this campaign for a lot of reasons,” Steele said. He added that it’s not helpful to second guess though.

“And so, you know, all the recriminations, finger-pointing and all that is not helpful. Second guessing, you know, should we have picked Mitt Romney? Yeah, duh, you did. Should he have picked Paul Ryan? Absolutely. Why not? He’s a smart political figure and has a lot to offer the party and I think resonated very well with the electorate, so all of that second guessing right now is typical Washington inside craziness,” he said.

“You need to hunker down. You need to look at your ground game. You need to look at your organization. You need to look at your message, and you need to look at your messengers, and we need messengers. We need messengers who look like me. We need messengers who are Hispanic, Asian Americans, women, a cross section of folks who represent communities across the country,” Steele said.

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