Steele not exactly firing up the troops

RNC chair says he doesn't think his party can take back the House this year

By Alex Koppelman
Published January 5, 2010 4:18PM (EST)

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has a new book out. And, as always for Steele, an opportunity for self-promotion is also an opportunity to go way off message.

Steele was plugging his book on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News Monday night. Hannity wanted to hear some predictions about Republican prospects in this year's midterm elections, which led to this conversation:

HANNITY: I think this is one of the most important mid-term elections that, as I said earlier, in our lifetime. So here's my -- I'm going to put you on record in January, and I'm going to play this back to you in November.

STEELE: Okay, I'm there.

HANNITY: Predictions for the election.

STEELE: Predictions for the election. I think that overall -- and we're beginning now to do the assessments on the various races. But I think overall, given what we know so far and what this administration's proclivities are, we're going to see, I think, nice pick-ups in the House. I think we're going to see --

HANNITY: More specific.

STEELE: Well, I can't give a number yet, because, like I said, we're just now beginning to look at the races. And we have races where it hasn't been declared --

HANNITY: Do you think you could take over the House? Do you think Republicans --

STEELE: Not this year. And Sean, I'll say honestly --

HANNITY: You don't think so.

STEELE: Well, I don't yet, because I don't know who all the candidates -- we still have some vacancies that need to get filled. But then the question we need to ask ourselves is, if we do that, are we ready?

You do have to give Steele some points for honesty here. But boy, as campaign strategy, this is pretty bad. Telling voters they won't reach their goal isn't a great way to bring them out to the polls. Take this Republican-infused metaphor for example: Imagine if "win one for the Gipper" became, "I wish we could win this one for the Gipper, but we probably won't, because we're not ready." Not really the most motivational speech ever.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2010 Elections Michael Steele War Room