- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 2010

Embattled Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele announced Monday that he will run for a second two-year term next month, setting up a pitched battle for control of the party as it seeks to build on the big gains it made in November’s midterm elections.

Mr. Steele, who has proved a combative and at times polarizing figure as head of the Republican National Committee, confounded political handicappers, who predicted he would step aside after a tumultuous two years at the helm of the RNC.

Jim Bopp, a Republican National Committee member from Indiana, told The Washington Times that Mr. Steele announced his decision in a conference call with supporters and officials of the 168-member RNC on Monday evening.

Mr. Steele ended the 40-minute call by playing what Mr. Bopp described as the “race card.”

“Who you elect as our next Chairman will speak volumes about our willingness to truly be the party of Lincoln,” Mr. Steele said.

Maria Cino, an official in the George W. Bush administration, is among several people who have emerged as potential challengers to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele. (Associated Press)
Maria Cino, an official in the George W. Bush administration, is among ... more >

Mr. Bopp took umbrage with the statement.

“It is apparent that when Steele loses, he wants to take down the RNC with him,” Mr. Bopp said. “This is the threat he has made by playing the race card - he will smear the RNC by saying we are all racist by not voting for him.”

The decision by Mr. Steele caps months of speculation, controversy and behind-the-scenes political maneuvering by the chairman’s critics and supporters alike as his two-year term was drawing to a close.

“Tonight, I come to my bosses with a record that only you can judge, based upon directions you made clear to me from the very beginning,” Mr. Steele said in his conference call. “Yes, I have stumbled along the way, but have always accounted to you for such shortcomings. No excuses. No lies. No hidden agenda.”

Then came his direct pitch for re-election. “Going forward, I ask for your support and your vote for a second term,” he said.

He crafted a sentence that anticipated the many instances opponents of his re-election will cite of his misstatements, contradictions and indecipherable statements on everything from whether the Republicans can take back the House in 2010 — he said they couldn’t — to his opposition to a resolution by members saying Republicans must block President Obama’s march to socialism.

“I believe the worst thing we can do now is to look backwards,” he said.

Many were surprised by Mr. Steele’s decision to run again.

“Most members think he doesn’t have the votes to win, and it would not be healthy for the RNC either to run or be re-elected,” said Tennessee RNC member John Ryder. “While he has done some positive things, the overall consequences of his chairmanship has been to reduce the effectiveness of the RNC.”

Mr. Steele was elected to the position in January 2009 after one term as the lieutenant governor of Maryland and an unsuccessful 2006 run for the U.S. Senate.

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