While guest-hosting Bill Bennett’s radio show last week, GOP Chairman Michael Steele received a caller who thought Romney could have beat Obama if certain factors had ended up right. (Hat tip to Think Progress)
Steele insisted, however, that Romney couldn’t have won because the GOP based “rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism”:
Yeah, but let me ask you. Ok, Jay, I’m there with you. But remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life. It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitch, Mitt, because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you’re talking about. So, I mean, I hear what you’re saying, but before we even got to a primary vote, the base had made very clear they had issues with Mitt because if they didn’t, he would have defeated John McCain in those primaries in which he lost.
Listen to the entire thing here:
Now, I’ve just listened to the above and I think Steele should realize two things:
1. He’s no longer a pundit, but a chairman… a leader. Jay Cost (who insists he wasn’t the “Jay” who called Steele) writes:
But first, let’s be clear. On the merits, I think that Michael Steele has some valid points here. I discussed both issues at length when I was blogging on the Republican nomination campaign last year. However, none of these comments should be coming from the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. On the issue of flip-flopping – all signs point to Mitt Romney having an interest in a future presidential candidacy. He might very well succeed where he failed last cycle, becoming the 2012 Republican nominee. That would make these comments quite unfortunate. One could imagine the DNC working this into a general election campaign ad. The kicker is pretty obvious: “Mitt Romney’s own boss doesn’t think he’s honest. Why should you?” Think Progress headlined its clip of Steele as this: “Steele Calls GOP Base Bigoted, Says They ‘Rejected’ Romney Because They Have ‘Issues With Mormonism.’” Republicans should hope that the mainstream press does not run with Steele’s comments, as it will only forward the “GOP is shrinking and narrow” meme, which he has actually helped along in the past.
2. When I grew up in Kentucky, we learned about our state flag’s motto: United We Stand, Divided We Fall. Apparently, the origin for the idea of the power of unity can be traced all the way back to the one of the fables of Aesop, in which he shows sticks one by one are broken easily, but impossible to break when tied in a bundle. Then, there’s this, with a little more authority than Aesop. The moral being, “unity gives strength.” Steele, as Cost wrote, “has no business talking about a tension that exists within his party, unless the goal is to minimize it.” Even more importantly, Steele’s off-the-cuff comments seem to betray a lack of understanding of the “GOP base.” The “base” didn’t elect John McCain. The base, as you remember, was divided among three people: Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, and Mitt Romney. This left the minority of the liberal GOPers with an inordinate amount of power in the election process. (Not to mention the weird fact that some states have open primaries, allowing actual Democrats to vote on our candidates.)
Although I like Steele, he hasn’t been very impressive so far in his role of the GOP chair. Let’s hope he begins to understand the dynamics of the last election, the power of his rhetoric, and the character of the kind of folks he’s trying to lead.
UPDATE: I just got this e-mail from David (not my David, who is still in Italy!)
He said Mitt was flip-flopping on economic issues!!?? That is truly bizarre.
“…because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you’re talking about….”
I followed Mitt’s campaign very carefully. I’ve racked my memory and come up with no possible thing that Steele could be thinking of. This guy is a joke. He needs to step down now.
I was just iChatting with my David, and we couldn’t come up with any economic flip flops. Charles?