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In First Presser, Steele Says He Looks forward to Sparring with Obama

5:08 PM, Jan 30, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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In his first press conference as RNC chairman, Michael Steele called his election "just one more bold step the party of Lincoln has taken since its founding."

A reporter pointed out that Barack Obama, while campaigning for Steele's Democratic Senate opponent in Maryland in 2006, called Steele an "amiable fellow" but his resume was "very thin." What does Steele think of the job Obama's done in his couple weeks in office?

"I would say to the new president: congratulations," Steele replied. "It's going to be an honor to spar with him. And I would follow that up with: How do you like me now?"

Asked what he planned to do to do to fix the GOP's image problem, Steele stepped to the side of the podium and quipped: "I got a nice suit. And the tie is good." Steele said that in 2006, the American people had "lost faith in our leadership" because Republicans "abrogated" the principles set forth in the 1994 Contract with America. "In order to right the economy, we don't need to redistribute their wealth, we just need to empower them to create more of it," he said.

Steele said that Republicans had failed by allowing the media and Democrats to define the GOP as a

party that doesn't care, a party that's insensitive, a party that's unconcerned about minorities, a party that's unconcerned about the lives and expectations and dreams of average Americans. And nothing could be further from the truth. We are the party that fought for the freedom of slaves. We are the party that fought for the empowerment and suffrage of women. We are the party that put in place the foundational civil rights principles in this nation.

Asked where he would devote party resources in upcoming elections, Steele called on state party leaders to come to him with a strategy and a plan to win in each of their states.

Steele also had one message for grassroots supporters: "Get ready to work. Were back in the game."