The Myth of Michael Steele
by Jonathan Singer, Sat Nov 18, 2006 at 07:56:47 PM EST
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.