Steele: “My Number is 39”

GOP chair says “that’s success” on “State of the Union.”

Republican deflects on whether he’s interested a second term, says “I’ve been focused on this Tuesday.”

Meanwhile: Kaine says “I believe that we’ll hold onto both houses.”


CROWLEY: For endangered Democrats, this is the year of throwing Jell-O against the wall to get something to stick against the backdrop of doubt and anxiety. In the final days of this political season, the president is hammering top Republicans for being political.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The Republican leader of the Senate said that his main goal for the next two years — this is his top priority — is to beat me in the next election.



That’s his top priority. I mean, you know, he didn’t say, “My top priority is to create jobs for folks in Virginia.” He didn’t say, “My top priority is to make America more competitive.” He’s already thinking about the next election. This one’s not even over yet.


We haven’t even finished this election. He’s already thinking about the next election. That’s what’s wrong with Washington.


CROWLEY: The president’s remarks came on the heels of news that the Democratic National Committee has begun gathering opposition research material for nine Republicans who may run for president.

Is 2010 really about 2012? Joining me now for that answer, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Chairman Michael Steele.

Thank you for joining us.

STEELE: It’s great to be with you, Candy. Good morning.

CROWLEY: Let me start first with the majority leader of the Senate saying the single most important thing that Republicans want to achieve in the next two years is to make the president a one-term president.

You’ve had the Republican leader on the House side saying this is — no, we’re not going to compromise, and you yourself had said that Republicans are not looking to compromise. Is that what you’re taking away from the polls right now, that the American public doesn’t want the Republicans to compromise on anything?

STEELE: Well, I think that, to be very clear here, when we talk about not compromising, not compromising away on the principles that our party have run on and have stood for, for a long time. For example, we’re not going to compromise on creating more debt. We’re not going to compromise on raising the debt ceiling. We’re not going to compromise on increasing the burdens on the backs of small-business owners and families.

The administration has got to come to the table at some point, Candy, to deal with these issues. When we talked about health care, we put a series of agenda items on the table. We couldn’t even getting a meeting with the White House to talk about those things. So you pass a health care reform without tort reform, which is a major dollar point that goes into the cost of health care.

These are the types…


STEELE: These are the types of things, on issues — let me just make this point — these are the types of things on issues that Republicans feel that the administration has not come to the table on. And with the Republican majority in the house, or Senate or hopefully both, we’re not going to compromise on those things. We’re going to stick to try to get that business done.

CROWLEY: Mr. Chairman, it just sounds like a recipe for gridlock. You know, you’ve got Republicans already talking about we’re not going to — we’re not going to compromise on our principles, but the principles –you know, it’s not like the president says, gee, I can’t wait to run up the debt. That’s not where the argument is.


The argument is about how do you stimulate jobs; how do you get people back to work? And you have to make choices there. And all we’ve really heard from Republicans is, you know what, no, we’re not going to compromise; we’re not going to compromise on…

STEELE: Well, no, I disagree with that, Candy. And while the president may not have said, oh, gee we’re not going to — we don’t want to run up the debt, his actions have done that. And that has been the frustration and the anger that’s been brewing out there for the past 18 months.

People have heard the rhetoric of change but they’ve seen that the total capitulation to government in implementing that change — small-business owners, families and communities have been locked out of this process. You don’t create the kind of jobs we need to stimulate this economy by going first to government. You go into the marketplace. And that’s been the argument that’s been made.

Number two, in terms of the policy issues, all you have to do is you want to get a sense of where we want to go in the economic front, look at what Paul Ryan has put out there; look what others have written and stated politically this is where we want to go.

CROWLEY: But Republicans can’t have — I mean, my point being the Republicans can’t have everything they want.

STEELE: Well, sure.

CROWLEY: And the president, you know, clearly knows that he can’t, if he’s working with a more Republican Congress, regardless of what the numbers are going to be.

I want to show you something from a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll that we’re putting out today, it’s about the Republican Party, people’s opinion of the Republican Party: 44 percent of those asked had a favorable opinion; 43 percent had an unfavorable opinion. So really, they’re not thinking the Republicans are so great here.


CROWLEY: Don’t you have to be careful?

STEELE: Oh, yes and I’m glad — Well, look, first thing, I’m glad to see it said 44, because, remember, a year ago we were in the low 20s. And so the party has made steady gains back — back to engaging with the American people.

But your point is exactly the point. We do need to be very careful here. We do need to be very smart about the kind of leadership we bring to the table come January with a Republican majority in the House and hopefully the Senate. We do need to be very, very smart about what the American people are saying they want us to address in terms of the economy, jobs creation and the like.

You can’t — I agree you cannot just go and do the same old same old because, if you do, then you’re going to wind up seeing such a split in the party, you’re going to wind up seeing a lot of people take that support that that newly found support that they have for the party and place it elsewhere.

So the leadership has got to be very strategic and very smart about two things; one, how it continues to address the concerns that the people have while hopefully bringing the administration to the table to get something done.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, just turning to Tuesday night, it now has been looking so good for Republicans for so long that and the expectations game goes like this. Less than 50 seats gained by Republicans in the House, it’s a failure of a night…


… fewer than eight seats gained in the Senate, it’s a failure of a night. What are your expectations for Tuesday?

STEELE: Well, that’s bogus. First off, we need 39. If we get 39 seats and take the majority, that’s success. If we get 37 seats, that’s success. Keep in mind, I mean, we’ve got to keep this thing in context here. We were — we were a party out of power. We were a party that, on the covers of magazines around this country, were called an endangered species. We were going to be regionalized, marginalized to the lower, you know, portions of the political spectrum.

We have battled our way back here, so to have the kind of night that we’re anticipating on Tuesday is not just a blessing but it comes from the hard work of our candidates out there engaging with the people.

So as the national chairman, you know, I tell — have told our folks around the country we’re at 38 seats; now let’s get to 39, and anything that we do that evening is going to be a great success, given where we started this journey a year and a half ago.

So you know, I appreciate all the numbers, 50, 60, 70. I just — my number is 39. Let’s get to 39, because then you can begin to put in place the governing structure that you’re going to need for your majority leadership in 2011.

CROWLEY: Mr. Chairman, since you took over the Republican National Committee, you have won three elections, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia. You look to be on the cusp of a pretty darned good night on Tuesday night.

STEELE: Right.

CROWLEY: And yet, on the record and off the record, you have a number of Republicans still firing at your chairmanship.


CROWLEY: I wonder what you make of that.

STEELE: Well, you know, look, not everybody plays well with others on the playground. We understand that. I’m a different kind of chairman. I said I would be. I’m not a status quo guy. I believe in shaking the system up. I’m a grassroots, bottom-up kind of activist. And I think the party needs that kind of leadership right now. The status quo, the establishment in Washington — they’ll get used to me.


CROWLEY: And finally, how long will they need — will they have to get used to you? Specifically…


… do you want to be chairman again for another term?

STEELE: I’ve enjoyed my two years so far as chairman of the Republican National Committee. I hope that my contribution has allowed us, as you’ve noted, to win the elections that the leadership that put me in the chairmanship have asked me to win.

CROWLEY: But do you want — do you want a second term?

STEELE: We’re going to evaluate that once we get past this Tuesday. My focus–

CROWLEY: Because we’re hearing that you’re already talking to people about that.

STEELE: No, that’s just — I find that amusing that people are already saying I’m having conversations like that. The reality–

CROWLEY: You’re not?

STEELE: No. The reality of it is I’ve been focused on this Tuesday. After this Tuesday, we’ll let whatever come, come.

CROWLEY: Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, thanks for joining us.

STEELE: All righty.

Related Topics: Congress, House, Midterm Elections, News, Republican Party, Senate, Video

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