Michael Steele: top 10 gaffes as RNC chair

Under normal circumstances, the chairman of the Republican National Committee is unknown to most Americans. He – and it’s always been a “he” – raises money, oversees party operations, and appears from time to time on Sunday talk shows.

Michael Steele, the current GOP chair, has blown that model out of the water – to the chagrin of many Republicans. His two-year tenure has featured one misstep after another. Now that he has decided to run for reelection next month, following big Republican gains in the fall midterms, his list of stumbles will come back to the fore.

1. Picking a fight with Rush Limbaugh

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Michael Steele speaks after being elected the first black Republican National Committee chairman in this Jan 30, 2009 photo. Two days after calling Rush Limbaugh a mere 'entertainer' with an 'incendiary' talk show, Steele apologized and acknowledged the radio commentator as a "national conservative leader."

Around the Obama inauguration, the conservative talker declared of the new president: “I hope he fails.” In a CNN interview, Mr. Steele took issue with the host’s view that Limbaugh is de facto head of the Republican Party – and then called Limbaugh an entertainer whose show is “incendiary” and “ugly.” Thus was launched the Steele-Limbaugh feud. Steele eventually backed down, telling Politico: "I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh. I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."

The feud sparked criticism from Republicans that Steele wasn’t doing his job. “Steele won the party’s chairmanship five weeks ago,” Republican strategist Scott Reed told Reuters. “He fired the entire staff. Who’s running the place? Who’s raising the money, recruiting the candidates, designing the voter identification programs and helping work with the congressional wing to design a message? Who’s doing all this work? No one.”

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