RNC Chairman Michael Steele Insists GOP Comeback Has Started

By Liz Sidoti | May 19, 2009 | 5:18 AM EDT

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele at a news conference on April 16, 2009 in Evansville, Ind. (AP File Photo/Darron Cummings)

Washington (AP) - Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele insists the GOP has embarked on a new chapter and says it now must offer genuine solutions for the ailing country.
"The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done," Steele said in remarks prepared for delivery Tuesday to state party chairmen. "We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future."
Yet, even as Steele urged the party to focus on the future, he reached back to a Republican former president, saying: "Ronald Reagan always insisted that our party must move aggressively to seize the moment. He insisted that our party recognize the truth of the times and establish our first principles in both word and deed."
Imploring conservatives to fearlessly apply their "timeless principles" to current challenges, Steele said, "For Reagan's conservatism to take root in the next generation we must offer genuine solutions that are relevant to this age."
The Republican National Committee chief is seeking to re-establish himself as the head of the beleaguered party and set its course. His speech comes after a rocky start to his two-year term that drew criticism from some longtime RNC members as well as a sustained Democratic campaign tagging conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the GOP's titular head.
Steele is trying to lead a GOP that's out of power in the White House, Congress and a slew of statehouses across the country. The party also has no natural successor to former President George W. Bush. And the GOP is in the midst of an intense debate over its identity while facing an emboldened Democratic Party that's grown larger under President Barack Obama's leadership as the GOP's ranks have slimmed.
Still, the GOP chairman downplayed the obstacles and claimed the GOP's comeback is "well under way" in the states. But he said people in Washington don't recognize that fact.
"Republicans may be the minority party at the moment, but we represent the ideas and concerns of the majority of Americans," Steele said. "Candidate Obama was very moderate in his views, but President Obama could not possibly be further to the far left."
Steele also promised that the GOP will not shrink from confronting Obama and Democrats. But, he said, unlike the "shabby and classless way" Democrats took on Bush, Republicans will take on Obama with class and dignity.
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