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Steele Sees Missed Republican Opportunities in Election
The Republican Party needs to quickly change its strategy to include minorities if it wants to continue to be competitive in national elections, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Thursday.
"You build the party from the bottom up. I looked at what the Democrats had done to allow them to capture new ground," Steele said at the Washington Ideas Forum. "I thought this was the prescription for us."
However, after Steele left the national committee in 2011, he says the party abandoned a grass roots strategy. "What I saw happen after I left is they deconstructed this network," said Steele. "They put up a web site and put some black and brown faces on it ... That was the reality and it came home to roost."
Steele said the party chose a big money approach to winning elections, a strategy defeated in the recent presidential election.
"You can run campaign commercials all day long, but you have to get 'Joe-six pack' off the couch and to the polls," he said. "You can't put the blinders on and pretend like nothing happen. There was nothing status quo about this election at all. We got outplayed and outflanked."
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, said that Republicans needed to make more sincere efforts to reach minority communities.
"The Republican Party isn't going to get out of the hole they're in by just running candidates that are brown, black and female. They got to change basic policies," Rendell said.
Rendell also blasted attempts to suppress the vote.
"I wouldn't use the word rig," Rendell said when asked if voter suppression efforts were coordinated. Instead, Rendell said politicians at the state level tried to implement practices that would benefit their favored candidate.
"I think voter suppressing tactics backfired in this election. [People] were angry because they believed there was a concerted effort to take away their right to vote," he said.
Steele said he didn't believe there was a coordinated national effort to suppress votes. But he said some tactics made it seems as if Republicans were trying to limit minority voting.
"The Republican effort was not a concerted effort, a grand cabal to suppress the vote. But it was highly stupid," Steele said. "It was made up by a lot of ham-handed politicians."
He added, "When a voter, however ill informed or wise they may be ... if they feel put upon or are refused to participate in the franchise, change your actions. The last thing you want voters to feel if you're an elected official is you're out to get them."