May 13, 2009 04:32 AM EST
A member of the Republican National Committee told me Tuesday that when the RNC meets in an extraordinary special session next week, it will approve a resolution rebranding Democrats as the “Democrat Socialist Party.”
When I asked if such a resolution would force RNC Chairman Michael Steele to use that label when talking about Democrats in all his speeches and press releases, the RNC member replied: “Who cares?”
Which pretty much sums up the attitude some members of the RNC have toward their chairman these days.
Steele wrote a memo last month opposing the resolution. Steele said that while he believes Democrats “are indeed marching America toward European-style socialism,” he also said in a (rare) flash of insight that officially referring to them as the Democrat Socialist Party “will accomplish little than to give the media and our opponents the opportunity to mischaracterize Republicans.”
Two other resolutions — to urge Republican lawmakers to reject earmarks and to commend them for opposing “bailouts and reckless spending bills” — are also on the agenda, but language that would have denounced Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican turned Democrat, and Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins for voting for President Obama’s stimulus package has been dropped.
Steele didn’t want the special session to be held at all. The RNC will hold its regular summer meeting in July, and all matters could have waited until then. But the special session is being viewed by some in the party as a “comeuppance” for Steele and an implied criticism of his performance and behavior in his first 100 days in office.
Exercising a rarely used party rule that allows any 16 RNC members from 16 different states to demand a special meeting, conservatives in the party forced Steele’s hand, and now the special meeting will be tacked onto the end of a previously scheduled meeting of state party chairmen that will convene next week at National Harbor outside Washington.
A further comeuppance — a vote of “no confidence” in Steele — is not being contemplated, I am informed, because Steele’s opponents in the RNC have already won a major victory by forcing him to accept greater controls on how he spends party funds.
Also, while there has been some talk about replacing Steele, few consider that likely, at least in the near future. “Without a Republican president to decide on that change, that won’t happen,” the RNC member said.
But Steele is not a popular chairman within the RNC, and his recent statements that appeared to attack Mitt Romney and the Republican base have undermined his popularity even further.
Steele was elected to a two-year term as party chairman on Jan. 30 on the sixth ballot, but instead of quietly trying to consolidate power within the party and build up his image, he embarked on a publicity tour that included statements that some in the party considered baffling at best and incendiary at worst.
“He has a tin ear,” the RNC member told me when I asked him to name Steele’s worst problem. “He has a tin ear when it comes to the building (i.e., the RNC staff), the RNC and the party.”
Last Friday, when Steele was guest-hosting conservative pundit Bill Bennett’s radio show, a caller suggested that Romney would have been a stronger candidate against Barack Obama than John McCain but that liberals and the media had pushed for McCain to win the Republican nomination.
The caller was, perhaps, not making the most intellectually rigorous of arguments, but in his answer Steele seemed to outdo the caller.
“Remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life,” Steele replied. “It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitt because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you’re talking about.”
Steele, who himself has said that abortion is a matter of “individual choice,” was opening old wounds not only by attacking Romney but also by suggesting the Republican base is bigoted when it comes to Mormons.
“His job should be to get everybody to sit down and focus on a message for the party and then get them to be the messengers,” the RNC member told me. “Steele wants to do the right thing, but he is clueless as to how the RNC really runs.”
Roger Simon is POLITICO’s chief political columnist.
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