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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Steele’s Two-Cushion Scratch Shot

Michael Steele’s chairmanship of the Republican National Committee continues to lurch from disaster to disaster. Even though he’s scaled back his media appearances, the ones he’s making aren’t helping matters. Late last week, he was on Bill Bennett’s radio show, and offered the following thoughts when asked by a caller if Mitt Romney had been denied the 2008 GOP presidential nomination by “liberals” and “the media” who were pulling wires for John McCain:

“Remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life,” Steele told the caller. “It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitt because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you’re talking about.”
“So, I mean, I hear what you’re saying, but before we even got to a primary vote, the base had made very clear they had issues with Mitt because if they didn’t, he would have defeated John McCain in those primaries in which he lost,” Steele concluded.

As Michelle Cottle of TNR’s The Plank observed today:

[B]y trying to make a simple, completely accurate observation about last year’s presidential primary, he managed simultaneously to pick a fight with Mitt Romney and tar the party’s base as a bunch of anti-Mormon bigots.
When oh when will someone put this man out of his misery?

Yep, Steele’s comments were something of a two-cushion scratch shot. But the maddening thing for Republicans is that they can’t dump him as chairman without courting the impression that they are bigots or small-tent types themselves. The chairman-in-waiting, South Carolina’s Katon Dawson (he of the recent memebership in a segregated country club) wouldn’t help much. One conservative blogger has suggested a very different name for
Steele’s replacement: a guy named Norm Coleman. If that idea has legs, it’s no wonder that Steele said “No, hell no!” to the suggestion that Coleman give up his guerilla legal challenge to his retirement from the U.S. Senate.

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