- Associated Press - Thursday, July 8, 2010

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. | In his first remarks since his widely condemned comments on the war in Afghanistan, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele said Thursday he “ain’t going anywhere” despite calls for his resignation as chairman of the party.

Mr. Steele’s appearance before Colorado Republicans was his first since he came under fire last week within the GOP for calling the nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan a mistaken “war of Obama’s choosing.” The remarks prompted criticism of Mr. Steele’s leadership, and some called on him to quit.

“Every time something happens, people say, ‘Oh, you should step down. You should step down.’ The reality is, that’s not happening, so stop the noise on that,” Mr. Steele told about 100 volunteers and state GOP leaders.

He added that stepping down from his post is a bad idea with November’s general election just a few months away.

“We have too much work to do,” he said.

Although he didn’t apologize for his Afghanistan comments, Mr. Steele affirmed his support for the war effort and told the crowd he is “foursquare, 1,000 percent with these troops on the ground … and that should’ve been very, very clear.”

The former Maryland lieutenant governor, the first black to head the RNC, also joked about his outspoken nature, referring to his “individuality.”

That individuality, he said, “you know, from time to time gets me in a little trouble, but that’s OK, we understand how that works,” Mr. Steele said to laughter from the volunteers.

In remarks recorded July 1 on camera and posted online, Mr. Steele criticized President Obama and his handling of the Afghan war and suggested the war could not be won. Republican officials later confirmed Mr. Steele made the comments at a Connecticut party fundraiser.

“This was a war of Obama’s choosing,” Mr. Steele said July 1. “This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

Mr. Steele’s has a history of statements that have later brought him political grief. In the past year, he predicted the GOP would not win control of the House of Representatives this fall and criticized fellow Republicans in a book that party leaders didn’t know he was writing until it was published.

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who attended the Colorado event Thursday, said he “certainly wasn’t happy about” the RNC chairman’s Afghanistan comments. But after a private meeting with Mr. Steele, Mr. Coffman said he supports him staying in place.

“I think he should stay on. He gave me the confidence he can lead this party forward,” said Mr. Coffman, who served with the Marines in Iraq. But he also noted that Mr. Steele is charged with running the Republican Party machinery, not to be making national security policy decisions.

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