Republicans have to stop attacking candidates running for the presidential nomination or risk giving President Barack Obama’s campaign too much ammunition, former party Chairman Michael Steele warns.
Speaking in the light of Monday night’s debate in Tampa, Steele tells Newsmax.TV, “I have not appreciated the tenor and tone of so many of the so-called leaders in the party who have taken to whacking at our candidates.
“It is providing the kind of fodder the Democrats will use in spades this fall against the individual who emerges.”
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Steele, who was Republican National Committee chairman from 2009-11, said anyone dedicated enough to run for the highest office in the land deserves respect.
“I’ve always said any individual who wakes up, goes to their family and gets permission from them to run for president of the United States should be applauded.
“You don’t have to support them, but you certainly shouldn’t tear them down.”
Steele said the latest debate, hosted by NBC’s Brian Williams, was very subdued and he is not sure how that will play out in the race between the two main contenders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“It was clear Newt and Mitt were doing that dance with each other. Mitt was more of the aggressor, surprisingly. I don’t know yet how effective it was," Steele said.
“Newt played down his aggressiveness and I don’t know how effective that will be in terms of how the audience sees it.
“But I thought in terms of conveying a message, there were opportunities to do that, and I thought some of that was missed.”
Steele said viewers have become used to more “tit-for-tat exchanges” between the candidates and the lack of audience feedback on Monday took some of the sting out of it.
“It was one of those things where everyone watching it probably walked away feeling ‘Is that it?’ and sent out for pizza.”
Steele said the best moment of the debate came from Texas Rep. Ron Paul, when he said he agreed with a lot of what Gingrich said, but still has to educate him on foreign policy.
“It had light moments like that, but overall it was a much slower debate –I don’t want to say boring, but it didn’t titillate.”
Steele, who lost his bid for a second term as RNC chairman when he was defeated by Reince Priebus, said the GOP has to do a more effective job of laying out the arguments against the Obama administration. He said the party got a bad rap from its approach to extending the payroll tax holiday late last year.
“We found ourselves coming off as anti-blue-collar workers, union or non-union. That is just not a good spot for the party to be in," he said. “It misses the opportunity really to capitalize on the failures of this administration to create jobs.
“We have lost a lot of land advantage that we had coming into 2011. … It has made the climb a little bit more difficult at times, unnecessarily.”
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