North Dakota's former Republican Party chairman said he may challenge GOP national chairman Michael Steele next year, saying Steele's penchant for political missteps has diverted attention from the party's candidates.
Gary Emineth said Monday that Steele should finish his two-year term, which ends in January. But Republicans should oppose Steele's re-election, said Emineth, who added he would be willing to run against him.
"I'm just frustrated by his continued comments, when the news becomes him, and not our candidates," Emineth said. "That's probably why, as much as anything, I'm speaking out to say, 'Tone it down a little bit.'"
At a Connecticut fundraiser last week, Steele implied the U.S. war in Afghanistan cannot be won, and referred to President Barack Obama's role in prosecuting it. Afghanistan is "a war of Obama's choosing," Steele said.
Terrorists who took part in the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, were trained in Afghanistan. Republican President George W. Bush sent U.S. troops into Afghanistan after the attacks, and Obama has supported the war effort there.
Emineth opposed Steele's election two years ago, and North Dakota's Republican national committeeman, Curly Haugland, argued then that Steele was ineligible for the national chairmanship because he was not one of the RNC's 168 members. Steele is a former Maryland lieutenant governor who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.
Emineth said Steele's habit of verbal gaffes and shortcomings in the party's fundraising operation, which Emineth said has racked up unnecessarily large expenses, show he should not get a second term.
Steele has recently downplayed the importance of Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio talk show host, in promoting Republican political goals. In January, Steele said Republicans would not retake control of the U.S. House from Democrats, and said he wasn't sure the GOP was ready to assume House leadership.
Emineth said Monday that Steele "needs to be the chairman through the election cycle. I don't necessarily feel you should change horses in the middle of a race ... I'm more about making sure someone else is prepared to challenge him in January."
Telephone and e-mail messages were left for the RNC Monday.
Emineth resigned as the North Dakota Republican Party's chairman last week, saying his business interests were demanding more of his time. He and a group of investors recently bought a New Mexico burrito manufacturing plant, and have been working on setting up an operation in North Dakota.
Emineth said he stepped down because he could not devote the time needed to serve as party chairman in the run-up to the November election. After the elections, he would be able to arrange his schedule to run for the Republican national chairmanship, he said.
"If I decide to get into that race at that point in time, I'll make provisions to have time to do that," Emineth said.