Steele and the Establishment

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In wide-ranging chat with Al Hunt, RNC chair explains why he’s a kindred spirit to Sarah Palin, how Haley Barbour is “flat out wrong” about his committee’s role in 2010 and how he’s unsure whether he’ll run for re-election.

From Bloomberg TV:

Steele on why the Republican establishment has problems with him and Governor Sarah Palin:

“Governor Palin will do what’s in the best interest of her family and herself and hopefully decide whether that fits in the direction of the country. We’ll save for a decision she’ll make later.”

“From my standpoint, we are different in that we’re from the grassroots. I’m a grassroots guy, grew up here on the streets of Washington, D.C., politically. My style and my approach to politics is not status quo. It’s not protecting the institutions. It’s exposing the institutions.”

“You’ve seen [establishment Republicans, like Rove and Barbour] reactions to various things, how they talk about the RNC and what we’re doing. We got on a bus and went out to the country, because that’s where the party needs to be. It doesn’t need to be stuck here in D.C. talking to each other and talking amongst itself. It needs to be out there listening to folks. That’s why you saw such a rise of grassroots activism, from Tea Partiers and so forth, over the last year, because political structures stop listening. The policies that are coming out of the White House reflect, again, this inability to hear what people are saying. “

Steele on whether he feels a kind of simpatico with Sarah Palin:

“Oh, absolutely. No, I really do. You know, in the words of Bill Clinton, I feel her pain, you know? I think you cannot sit there and look at what she’s able to do in terms of galvanizing our ground game, galvanizing our troops, moving people to action. That’s a very powerful force in politics.”

“Barack Obama has that ability. Sarah Palin has that ability. I think the establishment in this town just needs to chill out a little bit. And let’s wait and see what happens as we go forward. Whatever calls she makes, trust me, will be in the best interests of our country and the people of this country.”

Steele on the role the RNC played in Tuesday’s Republican victory:

“I think a fairly big role. I’ve always referred to us as the Marines in politics. We go where no one wants to go and do what no one else can do. We laid out about $175 million over the course of this cycle, starting with the elections in ’09, New Jersey and Virginia, and the wins there, and building up a ground game through 360 victory offices around the country, which is double what we’ve had in 2008. Doing a 50-state strategy, the first time the party’s ever engaged in all 50 states of the union politically, 118 congressionally districts we specifically targeted.”

Steele on Gov. Haley Barbour’s election night comments that the RNC “made this campaign tougher,” and the Republican governors and the Senate and House committees “had to scramble around and increase their resources beyond what was normal because the RNC was not able to do what it had done in the past”:

“[Governor Haley Barbour's] wrong. He’s just flat-out wrong, and he knows it. I don’t know if he considered the $14 million we put into the elections in 2009 as part of that. We raised $185 million over this cycle. I appreciate the governor’s position. But Governor Barbour can raise unlimited cash for the RGA. I’m limited by campaign finance laws to $30,000 max from any one donor. And to raise $185 million, in you know, in $47 increments, because that was our average donation, it’s not bad.

Steele on the number of congressional seats Republicans will pick up due to Tuesday’s gains with redistricting:

“The key thing to start with here is the fact that we flipped 21 state legislatures on Tuesday night, which now puts us in control for the redistricting purposes 196 congressional districts across the country.”

“It just depends on how the lines are going to be drawn in each district, but, yes, you’re looking at solidifying the gains we made on Tuesday and probably adding potentially another 10, 15 or so seats. But that’s today. I don’t know – once we start doing the math and doing the maps – you get a better sense of it. But the goal is to continue to build towards a governing majority.”

Steele on why Republicans were $25 million behind the Democrats in fundraising:

“They have the White House, the Congress, and the Senate. I don’t have the White House, the Congress, and the Senate…It makes a big difference when the President of the United States can go do a $4 million or $5 million fundraiser for you. I think we’ve been competitive.”

“The thing that people need to understand in this town is that the dynamics have changed. Because of the decision by the Supreme Court in the most recent ruling, Citizens United, we have 527s now that can really engage in the political process. Both political parties are less major dollar players and more small dollar donors, because if you’ve got $1 million, you can’t give it to us. You can give it to, you know, one of these committees. Case in point. Karl Rove’s group had one donor a couple of weeks before the election give a – contribute a $7 million check…I need about 150,000 donors to get to $7 million.”

Steele on whether he expects to be president, as chairman of the Republican national party in Tampa, Florida in August:

“I don’t know. I haven’t decided that yet…I’m not leaning anywhere. To be honest with you, I’m really kind of evaluating and assessing where we are as a party and what we need to do. I’m looking at whether my vision of what the party needs to do and where it needs to go, it fits what has to happen next…I’m not rushing right now. Let’s absorb the victory.”

Related Topics: Republican Party

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