Republican Chair Steele is toast, says governors' association head

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The head of the Republican Party is toast, says Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Chairman of the National Governors Association.

Is that clear?

In an interview with GQ magazine, published online, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said abortion was “an individual choice.” On Thursday, he issued a clarifying statement saying, “I am pro-life, always have been, always will be.”

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Steele’s gaffe on a major issue for conservatives will be politically fatal, predicted Rendell, who in the past served as chairman of the Democratic Party. “I just don’t think the forces that control the Republican Party really want a big tent,” Rendell said at a lunch for Washington reporters sponsored by the Monitor. “Do they want a chairman who is basically pro-choice? Not on your life. They won’t permit it.”

No big tent

The two-term Democratic Governor added that, “I don’t think the people who control the party -- not Republican voters -- but the people who control the party just aren’t going to allow that ideological flexibility. So I think Michael Steele’s days are numbered, fortunately for us.” Rendell called Steele “an engaging personality.”

Rendell also spoke with passion about the economic stimulus program recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. Ensuring the effective use of the $787 billion will be “the biggest test of government in my lifetime,” Rendell said. “And I have been in government since I was 33, 32 years ago, and I believe in it ... I don’t want to see this fail.”

Let's do more

The spokesman for the nation’s governors differed with those who say President Obama is trying to do too much all at once, scattering his fire. “This is the worst crisis we have faced at least in our lifetime. Are we capable of doing a lot of things? Yes we are. It isn’t all rocket science. Can we make decisions? Can we put the partisanship aside? Can we put aside our own little personal fiefdoms? Those are the tougher issues,” Rendell said.

While calling the current stimulus program “too small,” Rendell nevertheless argued for waiting before trying to get Congress to pass additional funds. “If I were a Congressman or Senator ... I’d want to see how this stimulus worked for a little while before I would vote for another one. I think that is fair," he said.

Great, but unemployed

Bailing out banks and insurance companies may be unpopular with voters, Rendell said.  But he urged the long view. “If the bailouts are the right thing to do, we have got to do them, hopefully explain them well, but take the consequences. This situation is so bad. If Barack Obama did unpopular things that helped us get out of this, and cost him reelection, I think he would go down as a great American president,” Rendell said.

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