The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

27 July 2006

Maryland Lt Gov Michael Steele, Senate Race, GOP

DIGGING OUT

For Candidate, Talk Radio Means Damage Control





Is it a campaign without a clear focus, or one with a brilliant strategy?

After an exceptionally strange week for Maryland Lt Gov Michael Steele, it isn't yet clear which theory represents reality. Since being outed as the "secret" GOP US Senate candidate with serious reservations about President Bush and party leadership on Capitol Hill, he's been utilizing talk radio in order to do some serious damage control.

In embracing Bush and the GOP now, however, is Steele merely confusing voters even more than ever? Or, was the entire controversy manufactured by his campaign to overcome negative sentiments toward Republicans by independent Maryland voters?

From John Wagner at the Washington Post:


On Monday, he didn't want President Bush campaigning for him. Yesterday, he called the president "my homeboy" and more than welcomed Bush to Maryland.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's awkward dance with the media and the White House continued after the publication of quotes in which the U.S. Senate hopeful, speaking anonymously, had distanced himself from the president and his party.

Steele (R) was greeted at a morning event in Prince George's County by four television stations eager to hear more about the Monday luncheon, which was billed as a "background" briefing for reporters who could identify him only as a Republican Senate candidate.

But Steele -- who acknowledged Tuesday that the quotes were his -- clearly was not interested in rehashing the luncheon. He apologized for his early departure from a news conference yesterday, which was held to announce festivities related to a late-September college football game in Prince George's, and then he slipped out the back door.

"Why did you say being a Republican is like wearing a scarlet letter, sir?" a television reporter shouted as Steele disappeared. "Why did you say being a Republican is like wearing a scarlet letter?"

Just a few hours later, in the confines of conservative talk radio, Steele said he welcomed the chance to clarify his comments, which were critical of the Iraq war and Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina. But he backed away from his suggestion at the luncheon Monday that he would "probably not" want Bush to come to Maryland to campaign for him.

"I've been quoted before as calling the president my homeboy, you know, and that's how I feel," Steele said on WBAL (1090 AM) radio in Baltimore. "I'm not afraid of George Bush. If the president wants to come and help me in Maryland, he is more than welcome. I'm not going to turn my back on a friend. I'm not going to do that. I want to make that very clear."


And from Jon Ward at the Washington Times:


ANNAPOLIS -- Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said yesterday that his criticism of President Bush during an off-the-record talk with reporters was taken out of context and that the president is a friend who is welcome to campaign for him during his U.S. Senate run.

"I'm not trying to dis the president," said Mr. Steele, a Republican. "I'm not trying to distance myself from the president. I'm trying to show those lines where ... I have a different perspective."

Mr. Steele made the comments on WBAL Radio to explain what he said Monday on Capitol Hill to nine national reporters, under an agreement that his statements would be off the record.

But Tuesday, the Steele campaign confirmed that Mr. Steele was the mystery candidate at the center of a column in The Washington Post that did not name him but quoted him as saying that his affiliation to the Republican Party was "an impediment" and a "scarlet letter."


So far, the best insight on this messy situation has been found at Powerline:


There have always been, and always will be, Republican politicians who feel the need to assure liberal journalists that they don't really buy into the party's conservative message.

I'll give Steele the benefit of the doubt and assume that this unsavory dynamic was not at work here. Indeed, the Steele campaign has claimed that the candidate had many nice things to say about President Bush during the course of the lunch. Nonetheless, I can't help but view Steele less favorably than I did before this unfortunate incident.

Coincidentally, in yesterday's Evans-Novak Report, Bob Novak wrote:

Steele already polls slightly ahead of Mfume, and within reasonable distance of Cardin. Whoever wins the primary, Steele will come out of it with an enormous cash advantage and an opportunity to hit the airwaves aggressively for the last two months of the race. Steele is playing it smart -- the conservative base in Maryland know that he is one of them, so no one is dismayed when he throws a bomb in the direction of President Bush or the national GOP.

I think that was written before the interview became public. In any event, I agree that distancing oneself from the administration-- really, from the party in general-- is a delicate task at best, and I wouldn't be so confident that conservatives won't be dismayed.


Your Radio Equalizer agrees: if this was a planned strategy, it may very well backfire, alienating the conservative base, while doing little to win the confidence of confused independent voters. Why any Republican would trust Washington Post reporters is beyond comprehension and doesn't speak well for Steele's sense of good judgement.

In addition, to assume that conservative talk radio fans are dumb enough to accept Steele's embrace of Bush, after trashing him in front of the enemy press just days earlier, shows he knows little about the medium's listenership.

More than that, a US Senate race is no place for amateur hour politics. To repair the damage, Steele has difficult work ahead.

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Steele photo: AP

5 Comments:

  • Finally a decent post by Maloney. Kepp in mind Brian, many many conservatives are not exactly Bush lovers anymore. I think he lost voters for sure by embracing Bush. Real conservatives, talk radio listeners or not are not just blind Bush loyalists anymore. Neo-cins are, most Republicans are not neo-cons

    By Blogger rightwingwhiner, at 27 July, 2006 13:14  

  • rightwinghiner,
    Don't you love them necons? They are so pissed off that the U.S. is not bombing the hell out Iran and Korea, that they are now calling for Condi to be fired .
    What a bunch of losers.

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 27 July, 2006 14:42  

  • I just came across some videos made by the College Democrats of MD regarding mr Steele. I'm from New Orleans, but this guys sounds pretty two faced. Anyway I thought it was pretty interesting what the MDCD's did.

    Check it out at StowSerge.com

    By Blogger StowSerge.com, at 13 August, 2006 15:19  

  • I came across some videos that were produced by the MD College Democrats about Michael Steele that I thought we just great. Not only for the production quality, but for the idea of making them.

    I'm from New Orleans so I don't know a whole heck of a lot about this guy but he seems really two faced.

    Check it out at StowSerge.com

    By Blogger StowSerge.com, at 13 August, 2006 15:22  

  • I came across some videos that were produced by the MD College Democrats about Michael Steele that I thought we just great. Not only for the production quality, but for the idea of making them.

    I'm from New Orleans so I don't know a whole heck of a lot about this guy but he seems really two faced.

    Check it out at StowSerge.com

    By Blogger StowSerge.com, at 13 August, 2006 15:23  

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