This was, by far, one of the most interesting things I've ever covered. And Steele? I've brought up problems Steele might face, but the biggest concern has always been, how are you at organizing? Steele has scrambled and won this fight definitively, bombarding members with emails for two days to drop their support for Duncan and go straight to him. It worked. Even his more bone-headed tactics, like his own people claiming some deal was being worked out with Duncan, then turning around and saying it was just a silly rumor, didn't negatively effect him.
Steele's outreach to moderates will be closely watched, and as I said, in the northeast, it's necessary. But as Jim as pointed out, "With some exceptions, Steele has defended a conservative Republican platform in hostile territory while holding the door open to moderates." There's a difference between a party chairman who embraces moderates, one who shuns them entirely, and one who looks at them for what they are -- opportunities to make blue states purple.
Steele is a sharp man who has successfully managed his own image, and his own administration. He is also not insulated -- he does not suffer from the maddening tendency of Republicans, and even conservatives, to refuse to innovate and keep an ear to the ground. This will be an important asset as Steele takes on the challenge of two off-year elections and 2010.
Dawson, who is an excellent political operator, showed his stuff in surging as far as he did. But for the next 2 years, we won't have to listen to Republicans attempt, mealy-mouthed, to defend the GOP as a party of inclusion while at once explaining the specific circumstances surrounding its tin-eared chairman. That was a conversation they never needed.
Steele has been waiting in the wings for a long time for this, since taking on GOPAC, even. Wish him luck.
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