Steele: GOP comeback has started

May 19, 2009 11:34:07 AM PDT
Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele compared President Barack Obama's popularity to that of a celebrity and said Republicans can't be afraid of criticizing him head-on if they want to regain their relevance. "He's young. He's cool. He's hip ... he's got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he's going to be popular," Steele told state party chairmen Tuesday. But "this is not American Idol. This is serious ... and we are going to take them on."

Steele said the GOP has owned up to the mistakes that caused its fall from power and is embarking on a new chapter.

"The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over," he said. "We have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future."

The Republican National Committee chief is seeking to re-establish himself as the head of the beleaguered party and set its course. His speech comes after a rocky start to his two-year term that drew criticism from some longtime RNC members as well as a sustained Democratic campaign tagging conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the GOP's titular head.

Steele, who drew a loud standing ovation from party leaders Tuesday, is trying to steer a GOP that's out of power in the White House, Congress and a slew of statehouses across the country. The party also has no natural successor to former President George W. Bush. And the GOP is in the midst of an intense debate over its identity while facing an emboldened Democratic Party that's grown larger under President Barack Obama's leadership -- at the Republicans' expense.

Still, the GOP chairman played down the obstacles and claimed the GOP's comeback is well under way in the states. But he said people in Washington don't recognize that fact.

"Republicans may be the minority party at the moment, but we represent the ideas and concerns of the majority of Americans," Steele said. "Candidate Obama was very moderate in his views, but President Obama could not possibly be further to the far left."

Steele said the GOP will take on Obama with class and dignity, unlike the "shabby and classless way" Democrats took on Bush.

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