Friday, November 10, 2006

What's Next for Michael Steele?

The Washington Times has an article suggesting that in Ken Mehlman's depature, the RNC has the opportunity to have Michael Steele head the national party. In the same article, Steele is mentioned for a Cabinet post, particularly Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. If offered Steele should take the RNC position for a number of reasons, but he should remain careful.

First, HUD Secretary is normally a political wasteland and even more so in a lame duck Cabinet with little chance of making an impact in the remaining two years of the Bush Administration with a Democratic Congress. HUD would do little to advance Mr. Steele's stature.

Second, housing is not a Steele issue. Theoretically, Urban Development may play to Steele's interest in opportunities for advancing minority achievement, but not likely. Steele generally has advocated private and personal development and HUD is a large government agency with large government programs. Large government programs are not what Steele has espoused both personally and politically. These are just not Steele's forte and while I am sure he could do a fine job, it is not in keeping with his general interests and values.

Third, Steele has run a state party and thus has experience in running political parties, having been the head of the Maryland Republican Party prior to his election as Lt. Governor. Granted, the GOP took a drubbing in Maryland this year, but that is not Steele's fault nor his responsibility. He ran a strong campaign, with some innovative use of advertising and personal appeals. Such differences in thinking while remaining true to conservative doctrine are exactly what is needed at this time and I think in the lead up to the 2008 election some innovation will be needed.

Fourth, while everyone is focusing on Steele as a black Republican with the possibility of reaching out to minority voters, that is not his only attribute and cannot taint the other attributes he brings to the table. As RNC chair he would have to head a massive fundraising operation in light of the 2008 presidential and congressional races pending. He is proven fundraiser. Steele is an articulate speaker, personable and engaging. As RNC Chair, he would bring a certain amount of personal appeal that Mehlman, despite his skill, lacks. While Mehlman was a good tactician, Steele can hire tactical skill, it takes leadership to run an organziation like the RNC.

Captain Ed agrees:
With all due respect to the White House, both Steele and the Republicans would be better served with Steele at the helm of the RNC. He instantly gives more credibility to Republican outreach efforts to minority communities, a key goal after years of writing them off as lost causes. He brings experience, as he has served as Maryland's Republican chair in the past, and after the midterms, the RNC needs someone with some seasoning from the trenches. He would have a much higher national profile at the RNC than he would stuck in the DC bureaucracy, perhaps even positioning him for a governorship or a Presidential run farther down the road.
. Others are likewise effusive with their praise

There are some potential drawbacks. On a number of social issues, Steele could charitably be called a moderate others may call him a liberal. It is not like Steele supports abortion or gay marriage (in fact he is adamantly opposed to both), but he is not opposed to affirmative action on most scores and there are probably some others as well. A Steele appointment may not be the conservative rallying cry that the GOP needs. One of Captain Ed's commenters noted that Rick Santorum would be a good choice for the GOP.

While I admire Sen. Santorum and his firebrand approach to some issues, what is needed is some practical experience in party operations and Steele has that. I think that Steele is a great choice.

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