The Washington Times - February 2, 2009, 03:23PM

There has been no love lost between President Obama and newly elected RNC Chairman Michael Steele, going back more than two years, to the fall of 2006.

Obama was then a senator and came to Maryland to campaign against Steele’s run for the U.S. Senate. Steele has not been shy since then in expressing derision for Obama.


Today, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Steele’s dramatic and historic win Friday to become the head of the RNC.

“He is the other African-American male heading a major party in this country,” said April Ryan, a radio reporter with American Urban Radio, who asked why the White House did not issue any statement upon Steele’s election.

Gibbs’ was utterly uninterested.

“I’d direct him to someone over at the DNC,” Gibbs said abruptly and quickly moved to another reporter.

Gibbs’ clipped response may have been triggered by Steele’s somewhat provocative jab last week. Upon winning the chairmanship, Steele was asked by reporters if he had any words for Obama and answered, “How do you like me now?”

But Obama and Steele’s sparring goes back for years. On Sept. 27, 2006, Obama campaigned for Steele’s opponent, Ben Cardin, at Bowie State University.

“I think it’s great that the Republican Party has discovered black people,” Obama told a raucous rally in the school’s gymnasium, before adding he sincerely did want the GOP to reach out to minorities.

“You don’t vote for somebody because of what they look like,” Obama also said. “You vote for what they stand for.”

“We want to take a look at who has a track record, [someone who] doesn’t just talk the talk, doesn’t just look good on TV, doesn’t just have a pretty smile, but somebody who has actually done the work and showed backbone,” Obama said.

— Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times