In Defense of Michael Steele

Far be it from me to try and save the Republicans from the embarrassment that has been Michael Steel’s 100 day tenure at the head of the Republican National Committee, but it seems to me that his latest “controversial” statement was in no way controversial at all.

Last week, while guest-hosting Bill Bennett’s radio show, he asserted that he didn’t think that any Republican nominee could have won the election against Barack Obama and when a caller said he felt that Mitt Romney could have won, Steele responded by noting that the right-wing base of the party did not support Romney and kept him from getting the nomination:

But remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life. It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitch, Mitt, because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you’re talking about. So, I mean, I hear what you’re saying, but before we even got to a primary vote, the base had made very clear they had issues with Mitt because if they didn’t, he would have defeated John McCain in those primaries in which he lost.

The Romney camp quickly issued a response saying Steele’s assertion was off-base and now Steele is backtracking:

Chairman Steele regrets the way his comments have been interpreted. Chairman Steele believes Mitt Romney is a respected and influential voice in the Republican Party and looks to his leadership and ideas to help move our party and our nation in the right direction.

The thing here is that Steele has nothing to apologize for because everything he said was true:  the GOP’s base was, by and large, leery of Romney because of his flip-flopping on choice and economic issues and many were quite openly hostile to this Mormon faith.

Granted, there were a multitude of other factors and dynamics at work at the time as well, but the fact remains that, outside of a handful of endorsements, Romney never managed to establish much support among the party’s base for all the reasons Steele cited, as well as several others.

Romney might not like it that Steele pointed out his flip-flops and problems appealing to the base, and some on the Religious Right might not like being reminded of the undercurrent of anti-Mormon hostility that was present during the primary, but the fact of the matter is that Steele’s assessment was correct.

Unfortunately for Steele, it seems that he’s so conditioned to having to apologize every time he opens his mouth that he’s now doing so even on the rare occasions when he’s actually correct.