Not exactly breaking news: former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele is the new chairman of the Republican National Committee. Polipundit has a blow-by-blow account of the six rounds (and five hours) of yesterday’s balloting to achieve a majority of support from the 168 delegates. Five candidates started the day. At the end it came down to Steele and South Carolina’s Katon Dawson. Steele prevailed by a count of 91-77.
I followed up with two of Colorado’s three voting RNC members afterward to get their thoughts, and received very similar reactions to the results.
“Michael Steele will be a great spokesperson for our party,” said state GOP chairman Dick Wadhams.
“Michael Steele is one of the Republican Party’s most articulate and dynamic spokesmen,” said Republican National Committeeman Mark Hillman. “He has a great deal to offer to our party.”
(The third vote belonged to RNC National Committeewoman Lilly Nunez.)
The sticking point for some may have been that the former lieutenant governor of Maryland has been tagged as a political moderate (a term that is often overused and, I believe in this case, misused). But, Hillman noted that Steele “convinced many conservatives that he’s solid on core issues of limited government, low taxes and traditional values. He has the potential to bring a tremendous new energy to the party.”
The way the race shaped up wasn’t a surprise to Wadhams. Conventional wisdom had the race boiling down to either Steele or then-incumbent RNC chair Mike Duncan versus either Dawson or Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis. As momentum shifted to Steele, the opposition slowly shifted away from Anuzis, who was Wadhams’ first choice. While he doesn’t know what Anuzis’ future in the party might look like, Colorado’s GOP chair was impressed by his Michigan counterpart.
“He’s a solid conservative who talks in a very effective way about what his beliefs are,” Wadhams said, also citing the appeal of Anuzis’ non-traditional Republican background.
In the end, Wadhams said it was a tough choice because “any one of [the five candidates] would be a great chairman.”
The last candidate was former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Popular especially among many social conservatives, Blackwell was never able to get more than 20 votes and dropped out after the fourth round of balloting. Hillman and Backbone America’s John Andrews were among Blackwell’s most vocal supporters in Colorado.
“Ken Blackwell is a class act,” said Hillman. “I think enthusiasm for his candidacy may have peaked a couple weeks before the meeting.”
After RNC delegates from Colorado and other states had been inundated with emails and phone calls from the candidates and their surrogates, there’s a sort of sense of relief that the chairman selection process is over and the party can move forward and look to the future.
Wadhams said he hopes to get Chairman Michael Steele out to speak to Republican groups in Colorado as soon as possible. “He’s a new face for our party,” Wadhams said.
Let’s face it: Steele doesn’t exactly have the most desirable job in the United States. Even those who have supported his candidacy from the beginning – like Douglas County’s Steven Nielson – recognize he has “a tough road ahead”. Bringing the GOP back from the political wilderness will entail balancing adherence to core principles with a broadly appealing message and effective fundraising.
The conservative GOP grassroots doesn’t want to be told from above how things will be done. After congratulating Michael Steele, Don’tGo Movement guru Eric Odom makes an urgent plea to use new technological tools to foster working together:
Specifically, we want to see the Party completely rethink itâ€™s involvement in Politics 3.0 and forward thinking, web based collaborative movements.
This isnâ€™t just about Facebook or Twitter. This isnâ€™t just about how many friends one has on a social network. This is about bottom up collaborative political action. And this collaborative action functions using the tools of social media and the internet as messaging and communication vessels.
Itâ€™s our hope that youâ€™ll seek to grasp this mentality, and work with the organizational structure within the RNC to make sure the Party as a whole begins to grasp it as well.
A lot of marketing is listening. You listen to what your audience wants, and you give them just that. You donâ€™t try and force feed them what YOU want. And furthermore, in a wild world of NOW conversation and action, you donâ€™t just give the audience what it wants; Rather, you become actively engaged in the process itself.
So, in essence, the RNC needs to view the web as a thriving community of activists who want to be involved. We want to be a part of something. We want to take part in projects that we feel ownership of. We want to collaborate and help build things that we believe will further the movement for free-markets and sound government.
Ditto to Eric. I’m hopeful that the GOP’s new chairman is listening. And I look forward to the opportunity to see Michael Steele visit Colorado.