The Myth of Michael Steele

As polling appeared to indicate a tightening race for Senate in Maryland during the waning days of this month's elections (the Pollster.com average pegged Democrat Ben Cardin with a lead of just 49 percent to 45 percent), the more than million dollars that the National Republican Senatorial Committee invested on GOP nominee Michael Steele's behalf seemed to be a good investment. After all, if Steele could pick up the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic incumbent Paul Sarbanes, it would be near impossible for the Democrats to retake the Senate.

As it turned out, Steele, the Lieutenant Governor, was not nearly as strong a candidate as Republicans, and indeed the establishment media, took him to be. What's more, the race was not tightening -- or at not least to extent surveys indicated it was. In the end, despite Steele's supposedly effective television ads (which were notably devoid of much, if any, substance), his purportedly stellar resume and the use of disengenuous tactics like sample ballots insinuating that Steele was a Democrat (an offense for which Steele and Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich will apparently not be prosecuted), Steele performed just one percent better than George W. Bush had two years ago. This was a striking underachievement given that the President invested almost no time or resources to Maryland during his reelection campaign.

But not only was Steele supposed to give Cardin a run for his money generally, he was also supposed to be at the forefront of Republican efforts to bring African-American into the Republican coalition. In the end, Steele did run about 15 points better among African-American voters than GOP Congressional candidates nationally, yet he still received just a quarter of the African-American vote in Maryland, not nearly enough of a swing to overcome the state's historical Demcratic lean.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that the numbers do not support the assumption that Michael Steele was a supremely qualified candidate who can win on his own right in Maryland, the myth still persists. According to Robert Novak (consider the source...), the White House wants Steele to become a "a black Rush Limbaugh." Some are saying that he would be a terrific candidate for Senate in 2010 should Barbara Mikulski opt to retire or perhaps even for Governor that same year.

Nonsense, I say. Michael Steele is a lot of bark and very little bite. There's a reason why the Republican establishment scoffed at the notion of Steele heading the Republican National Committee, and it's not because (as Novak says) he was too independent. While Steele may look great on paper, he simply cannot and will not cut it with the voters.

Tags: Maryland, Michael Steele, Senate 2008 (all tags)

Comments

22 Comments

Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

Forget Michael Steele. Now Mark Kennedy in Minnesota, there's a great candidate. He's going to give Dems a run for their money in '06.

Remember where you heard it.

by zt155 2006-11-18 08:18PM | 0 recs
Anyone see Steele in a debate?

I only caught him vs. Cardin on Meet The Press but wow did Steele come across as simplistic and unable to expand on his talking points.  He was literally unable to answer some of Russert's questions (which isn't saying much) to the point of stammering.  It wasn't exactly a Patricia Madrid moment but he looked and sounded extremely inadequate for the job on MTP.  No offense to Madrid btw, I think she just had a brief moment of stage-freeze.

by tomanjeri 2006-11-18 09:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Anyone see Steele in a debate?

I saw (a good portion of) that Steele-Cardin debate and another debate that also included the Green candidate. What immediately struck me is that Steele just could not stop talking. He'd constantly talk through everyone else's answer, even if only to say, "I agree with you." Annoying as hell.

by sxp151 2006-11-18 11:08PM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

I saw Steele and Donna Brazile on CSPAN's WJ a day or so after the elections and while Steele was reportedly under consideration as the next RNC chairman. I just had the impression Steele was auditioning for the role and after the segment was over, I figured he flunked. Man, was he smarmy, annoying and full of obviously false sincerity. Donna Brazile is usually calm and agreeable, but you could tell even she was getting irate with Steele.

by phillydem 2006-11-19 01:51AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

 Man, if even Donna Brazile stands up to you, you know you ain't got nuthin'.
by Master Jack 2006-11-19 05:32AM | 0 recs
black-identified blacks will NOT vote republican

Black Americans are typically more socially conservative than white Democrats, leading many Republicans to think they can expand their reach into black populations.

Unless Republicans want to play dem-lite on economic and racial issues, and as long as black leaders and institutions still have terrible memories of jim crow and Republican resistance to the civil rights movement, they won't gain more than a few points for their social rhetoric.

There is, however, another side to this. Democrats will do the Republicans' work for them if they neglect their black constituencies. Democrats need to stay one step ahead of Republicans by representing black America on economic issues, and issues of power and political enfranchisement, in ways that make it clear to all that black interests were served. That effort will start anew on day 1 of the Democratic congress.

Regardless, I would be ecstatic to see Republicans challenge Democrats for large numbers of black votes. The only way our representatives can be forced to support black Americans is if both parties are actively for them

by msnook 2006-11-19 02:41AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

Where's the YouTube vid of Steele standing in front of a rally in Maryland. The screen shot of Steele dressed ENTIRELY in BLUE (tie, jacket, shirt, everything). I keep hoping someone will put up that screen shot so everyone can save it. That is the essence of this man--he's a con, a scam artist, a fake front for an empty shell. When I watched Steele being interviewed during that "rally" I couldn't believe that no one even mentioned it. The two people I found to be the most despicable of the entire election were Joe Lieberman and Michael Steele, fellow opportunists who showed their true colors in their respective races. Two dirty birds of a feather.

by Tennessean 2006-11-19 03:27AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

I missed the Cardin-Steele debate, but having lived in MD for eight years now, all I have to say about Steele is that he's quite the empty suit.

If this is the sort of candidate that the GOP is eager to field, then they're in worse shape than anyone realizes.

by RT 2006-11-19 03:27AM | 0 recs
No prosecution

What's the story with the lack of prosecution, or even investigation, of the fake sample ballots and flyers lying about endorsements? Is it just a blatantly political decision by Bush's Justice Department, or is there some loophole in election law that needs to be closed?

If that activity is illegal, it needs to be investigated, and prosecuted if the investigation leads in that direction (as there's every reason to expect it to). If somehow that activity is legal, it needs to be made illegal.

by KCinDC 2006-11-19 05:53AM | 0 recs
That's at the federal level

  It IS entirely plausible that the Ehrlich/Steele fake-flyer stunt, dirty and sleazy as it was, might not have actually been illegal under federal laws.

 Don't know about STATE laws. Maybe Doug Gansler can pick up on that when he takes office.

 But either way, Steele's reputation was badly damaged by that fraud -- probably enough to cost him the RNC chair, simply because it was TOO obvious...

by Master Jack 2006-11-19 06:10AM | 0 recs
The Real Problem with Steele: He's an moron

I thought the TV ads were pretty good, but you get this guy off script and he can barely read a shopping list.

He could never hack it as RNC Chair or Governor because he just plain doesn't have the smarts.  I think he was well qualified to be Lt. Governor, a position that simply requires you stay alive should the Governor fall over.  Good think Ehrlich never did.

The Republicans are trying very hard to find a place where Steele can stay in front of the right people and they can continue to point to him as the appropriate moment (ie when someone asks "Why is Trent Lott back in the leadership?").  

But I think he is just going to either fade away or fade forward until he puts his foot so far down his throat that he becomes toxic to even the GOP.

by Nolan 2006-11-19 06:24AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

I never thought Steele would have won against Cardin. against Mfume, he had a shot, but that was mostly due to Mfume's poor fundraising.

Steele had a chance to cast himself as a moderate, independent Republican (I'm not saying he would actually have been one, just that he could have presented himself as such). instead he ran a fluff campaign and pretended to be a Democrat.

Maryland Republicans have learned not to run the crazy old ladies (Ellen Sauerbrey) or party hacks with no shot at winning (like 2004 nominee E.J. Pipkin, who had to self-fund his campaign), but after Ehrlich and Steele, their bench of candidates is pretty well spent. they have two congressmen, one of which is about 80 years old, and the other represents the Eastern Shore, so there's not much chance of any crossover voting in the Baltimore/Washington suburbs. in the state legislature, they're getting marginalized even worse than they have been already: they have no representatives from Montgomery or Prince George's County (the last State Delegate from MoCo, Jean Cryor, narrowly lost re-election this year), so their base, such as it is, is the thinly-populated Eastern Shore, Western Maryland, and parts of the Baltimore suburbs like Anne Arundel County.

by johnny longtorso 2006-11-19 06:46AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

also, Steele got 44% of the vote, but considering that Bush got 43% of the vote in 2004, that's not that impressive an accomplishment.

by johnny longtorso 2006-11-19 06:49AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

The better the voters know Steele, the less they like him. In his own home county where he lives, Prince George's, he squeaked out just 24% of the vote. The county is 63% black, 11% hispanic and asian. So much for minority support, that's just total humiliation.

But Steele will be back. He's the perfect GOP politician. He totally lacks substance, flaps in the political wind like an airport sock, and has burning ambition for power. He said in his concession speech "I asked for six years as a U.S. senator, that's all I ever wanted." He made it sound like a minor request, like a lollipop for Easter!

by billybob 2006-11-19 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

LOL! That's what happened to Santorum, the more he talked and people learned about him, the less they liked him. His campaing ads actually managed to make his negatives go UP.

by phillydem 2006-11-19 09:28AM | 0 recs
Michael Steele is such a freakin liar

He was on CNN last week blaming the Democrats for distributing that literature which listed him as a Democrat during the end of the campaign.
WaPo had covered the issue.
Yeah sure Michael, you wrapped yourself in Blue: clothing, signs, bumperstickers,pins, and everytime I saw him he was screaming,beaming Blue. Does anyone believe his crap?
Blitzer should be canned for not calling him on this, he's not performing his journalistic duties. It was pathetic.

Steele is truly one of the sleaziest Gop polys I`ve ever seen.

Thankfully Maryland handed him a 10 point loss and he lost his home County, Prince Georges 60% to 39%.

by Predictor 2006-11-19 08:14AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

Michael Steele is such a freakin liar (none / 0)

He was on CNN last week blaming the Democrats for distributing that literature which listed him as a Democrat during the end of the campaign.
WaPo had covered the issue.
Yeah sure Michael, you wrapped yourself in Blue: clothing, signs, bumperstickers,pins, and everytime I saw him he was screaming,beaming Blue. Does anyone believe his crap?
Blitzer should be canned for not calling him on this, he's not performing his journalistic duties. It was pathetic.

Steele is truly one of the sleaziest Gop polys I`ve ever seen.

Thankfully Maryland handed him a 10 point loss and he lost his home County, Prince Georges 60% to 39%.

He actually lost Prince George's by 75% to 24% !

by silver spring 2006-11-19 08:41AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

He actually lost Prince George's by 75% to 24% !

Additionally, the 4th Congressional district part of PG (which is the part that is overwhelmingly African-American) only gave Steele approx. 15-20 % of the vote -- I think some of the exit polls which gave Steele's support among African-Americans at approx. 25% are off the mark.  Based on results from looking at precinct data from PG as well as results from Balto. City, it appears Steele gathered approx. 20% of the African-American vote in Maryland.

by silver spring 2006-11-19 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

The GOP is pretty predictable: Maybe they'll try to recycle him as a candidate in another state or he'll get a cable chat show with a dumb title like "Michael Steele is making sense".

The whole effort to sell him as a demi-Dem and Ehrlich as a centrist was so heavy handed as to be an obvious non-starter.

by rich 2006-11-19 08:54AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

My hunch is, although I haven't analyzed the exit polls, that any ground Steele gained with black voters (and 10% is significant in a state that is 30% black) was negated by ground he lost among racist conservative white voters (of which there are actually many in Maryland. Although, unlike in other states, that does not translate into Republicanism since even Maryland whites are strongly Democratic). The tightening of the race at the end was probably part of the trend of white voters saying they will vote for an African American when they wont (and I didn't think Ben Cardin's performance in the meet the Press debate was all that great; he sounded kind of angry).

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story .php?storyId=5548757

by RyeGuy5555 2006-11-19 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

a quick look at CNN's exit polls:

Ehrlich won white voters 54-45.
Steele won white voters 50-48.

O'Malley won black voters 84-15.
Cardin won black voters 74-25.

as far as party ID goes:

Democrats went 85-15 O'Malley compared to 86-12 Cardin.
Republicans went 93-7 Ehrlich compared to 94-6 Steele.
Independents went 49-47 Ehrlich compared to 52-44 Cardin.

my guess here, and it's just a guess, is that compared to Ehrlich, Steele got more black Democrats to vote for him, but lost ground among white Democrats and Independents.

by johnny longtorso 2006-11-19 10:55AM | 0 recs
Re: The Myth of Michael Steele

you can't necessarily pin this on racism, however. it could just be that voters were less willing to vote for a Republican candidate for Senate, period. after all, gubernatorial elections are less partisan than Senatorial ones.

by johnny longtorso 2006-11-19 10:59AM | 0 recs

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