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On Thursday, Mr. Steele ignored a question about whether he thinks racism motivates some of his critics.

RNC members have been urging Mr. Steele to make a substantive appeal to disenchanted grass-roots conservatives who are thought to make up much of the tea-party movement. But The Washington Times has reported that leading figures in the tea-party movement say the RNC has been ignoring them.

“I have called into the RNC many times, and they still haven’t called me back,” Dale Robertson, head of TeaParty.org, which he claims has upward of 7 million members, told The Times. “I’ve called them, lots of times. I called them this morning. I called them yesterday. It’s like they ignore you as they try to figure out a strategy on how to defeat you.”