I just got off a bloggers’ conference call for Michael Steele, who is running for chairman of the Republican National Committee. Steele held himself up as an effective conservative messenger, someone who would stand up for the party’s core values but be able to communicate them in non-threatening ways to audiences that have traditionally been unreceptive to Republicans.
Steele criticized the McCain campaign and the GOP more generally for letting the Obama campaign “play the race card” with impunity. Steele pointed to Obama’s effectiveness against the Clintons in the primaries and also McCain’s fear of raising the Reverend Wright issue in the general election. Steel argued that it would be difficult to play the race card against him. Yet he also disavowed the idea that his color (Steele, like Obama, is black) was a reason to elect him chairman of the RNC.
Steele contended that Republicans need to find ways to make their arguments on Social Security reform, immigration, and cutting goverrnment without making it easy for Democrats to cariacture their positions. In those cases, as well as on the energy issue, Steele felt the GOP was taking the right stand but making it too easy at times for Democrats to launch attacks against the Republicans as racist, xenophopic, etc. He said he would make it clearer that Republicans understood the real people involved in these issues. He didn’t provide detailed examples of how he’d vary the arguments or better utilize technology, but he did vow to be a positive face for the Republican Party.
I asked him if he thought the fact he wasn’t a current member of the Republican National Committee was a liability, since it’s been reported that RNC members prefer to pick from within. He more or less said no. I wrote about Steele’s 2006 Senate race in an American Conservative piece about the “year of the black Republican” at the time.