Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Monday played up GOP divisions over Michael Steele and even touted a "poll of insiders" that showed party leaders think the Republican National Committee Chairman (RNC) should resign. Stephanopoulos also prompted Steele to blame recent struggles on race.
The former Democratic operative turned journalist related, "The National Journal magazine, respected magazine, did a poll of insiders showing that 71 percent believe you're a liability to the party. Only 20 percent believe you're an asset."
He then breathlessly relayed, "And listen to this. This is from one of those that thought you were a liability: 'Michael Steele is an anchor around the neck of the future of the Republican Party. He needs to go.' Are you going to go?" ABC displayed a graphic of the poll, but didn't explain or dwell on the sample size of such a small, anonymous survey. (It was 104 "insiders.")
Stephanopoulos prompted Steele to put a racial spin on the RNC's strip club debacle and fund-raising issues: "We've got a lot of questions on my blog for you this morning...One came in from Myron. And he asked, 'Do you feel that, as an African-American, you have a slimmer margin for error than another chairman would?'"
A transcript of the April 5 segment, which aired at 7:08am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee joins us now. Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
MICHAEL STEELE (RNC Chairman): Good morning, George. Good to be with you, buddy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you for coming on. We heard those- Senator Kyl and Congressman McCarthy, yesterday, with their criticisms. Republican insiders have been even more harsh in public. The National Journal magazine, respected magazine, did a poll of insiders showing that 71 percent believe you're a liability to the party. Only 20 percent believe you're an asset. And listen to this. This is from one of those that thought you were a liability: "Michael Steele is an anchor around the neck of the future of the Republican Party. He needs to go." Are you going to go?"
STEELE: Yeah. Yeah. No. And, you know, I understand that. Of course, they've been saying that since the day I got the job. The reality of it is, when I first heard about this, you know, behavior going on, I was very angry. And we dealt with it. We got to the bottom of it. The employee was summarily dismissed for going against our internal policies and finance. We have been putting great controls in place, for the last few months, as a matter of fact on some of our financing. Those numbers that they talk about, you know, I'm not staying in fancy hotels and the Four Seasons and flying around in corporate jets. I travel-
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you have spent more than you've taken in, haven't you, Mr. Chairman?
STEELE: Pardon me?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have spent more than you've taken in?
STEELE: No. I had more money left over at the end- I got a budget. I inherited a budget that had zero dollars left at the end of 2009. I had $8 million that we were able to husband after spending on New Jersey, Virginia and, and Massachusetts. Along with 37 other special elections around the country for state legislatures, mayors, offices and the like. So we have managed the money in a way that has allowed to us compete in some races that we otherwise wouldn't have been able to compete in. Where we have also begun to put controls in place is on the spending, with respect to the types of events that our finance department has been putting on, where have the White House and both houses in Congress. That's no longer the standard that we've been trying to get them to adjust to. A lot of these- a lot of our donors, major donors are used to a particular type of event. We've been scaling those back. So, you know, I think a lot of this has really kind of taken it a lot further down the road and blowing it up larger than it needs to be. At the end of the day, I've raised more money than the Democrats in seven out of 12 months. I carry over the same amount of money as the DNC into 2010. We had a very good March. We'll have a very good April. But the bottom line is, I hear my donors. I hear my base out there. I hear the leadership. And we're taking steps to make sure that we're even more, how shall we say, fiscally conservative in our spending. And certainly making sure that the dollars are there when it's time to run our campaigns.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah Palin said last week, take her name off a Republican fund-raiser in New Orleans. Have you spoken to her? Is she going to come back on board?
STEELE: Yeah. I mean, the deal there was there was never an agreement for Sarah to be listed in the first place. I think someone kind of jumped the gun there. It wasn't take her name off. It was just, you know, she wasn't planning to be on that event so there's no need to list her there. I know a lot of people want to make more of it than there is. And, you know, those 71 percent on Capitol Hill, those unnamed Republicans who don't like me, well, I understand that. But I'll continue to work hard and try to win more races to get a majority in the Congress this November. Get a majority in the Senate. Win our governorships and get us ready to be competitive in 2012 with a nominee who will beat Barack Obama. That's what this is all about at the end of the day, winning elections.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We've got a lot of questions on my blog for you this morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One came in from Myron. And he asked, "Do you feel that, as an African-American, you have a slimmer margin for error than another chairman would?"
STEELE: The honest answer is yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why is that?
STEELE: It just is. Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. We- A lot of folks do. It's a different role for, you know, for me to play and others to play. And that's just the reality of it. I mean- But you take that as part of the nature of it. It's not- it's more because you're not someone that they know. I'm not a Washington insider, even though I grew up here in D.C. My view on politics is much more grassroots oriented. It's not the old boy network-oriented. So, I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more streetwise, if you will. That's rubbed some feathers the wrong way. At the end of the day, I'm judged by whether I win elections and I raise the money.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question-
STEELE: That's a standard I'm very comfortable with and look forward to meeting in November.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question Mr. Steele. Back in known 94, when Congress took control, they didn't oppose it, they put out a Contract for America that laid out their positive agenda. Will you be putting out a contract for America in 2010?
STEELE: Well, I've talked with Newt Gingrich and House leadership and looking to work with something. I had this idea called first principles that I've talked about over the past year that hone us back to those first principles of fiscal discipline and responsibility and the like that I think can anchor us and anchor our candidates this fall. So, hopefully, we'll have a working document, if you will, George that we can take to the American people that will clearly lay out who we are, what we believe, how we will lead and why it's important to move in a new direction.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And as you said this morning, you intend to be at the top of the party. Mr. Steele, thanks very much for spending some time with us today.