RNC Chairman Michael Steele took to the Sunday talk show circuit for the first time since he was elected to the post. And while he pledged to help restore the Republican Party to a more powerful perch, he outlined a game plan that seemed reminiscent of years past.
Pressed by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Steele diagnosed the GOP ills as a problem of the messenger but not the message -- he even suggested that the party should look back to New Gingrich's Contract With America for inspiration.
"We failed to lead," said the former Lt. Maryland Governor. "The principles we espoused [in 1994] are still true and good today and that's not what people moved away from us for. They moved away from us because we behaved badly. We came to Washington and we became like the people we were sent here to replace. And they replaced us."
That mindset extended itself throughout the conversation on policy and politics, where Steele did little to distance himself from the issues that defined the GOP's poor showing in recent elections. He put forward Gov. Sarah Palin's name -- among others -- as the future of Republican leadership. And on immigration, he pledged "no change in the position on the party..."
"The GOP position is secure our borders first," he added. "Let us know and let us make sure the American people know that we've taken care of the important business of dealing with the illegal immigration into this country."
Steele also restated his support for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and applauded the united GOP front to the stimulus bill currently making its way through Congress. He brushed off concerns that the party would look like obstructionists if not one member supported the president's plan.
"The Republican Congress did a great job in drawing the line," he said. "I hope the Senate will follow."
There were aspects of the program where Steele discussed the need to forge a different path for the GOP. He talked openly about his work with the centrist Republican Leadership Council, and -- more broadly -- about the need to recruit moderates back into the party tent. At one point, he highlighted poverty and education reform as two issues that could be new areas of focus for the party.
But mainly the ten minutes Steele spent on the show were aimed at propping up the Republican brand as it currently exists -- the byproduct of the race he just ran, in which he largely played down his more moderate roots in favor of positioning himself as a conservative standard-bearer.
"For those Democrats who want to put up road blocks, the name calling and the obfuscation," Steele said early on, "I don't have time for it."
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