African American Michael Steele Takes Over Floundering GOP

Ex-Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is the new chairman of the Republican National Committee.
It took six ballots, but former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele edged out South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson, 91 votes to 77, to become the new chairman of the Republican National Committee. Steele is the first African American to hold the post.

Steele's victory also marks a decision by some GOP leaders that to elect a man associated with an all-white country club -- when America just elected a black president, and the GOP itself runs a risk of being branded an all-white club -- was too big a risk to run.

Steele ran in large part on his ability to rebrand the party and to do battle on cable news. Though he is, in fact, quite conservative for the spectrum of American politics, he wasn't the conservative choice, and his win marks a real defeat for elements of the party's conservative wing.

For younger Republicans and those seeking a dramatic break from the past, he was the choice, and his win suggests that the party is emerging from the phase of denying that, in the wake of its 2008 rout, it has a problem.

This was Steele's second attempt at the RNC gig, after a failed campaign in 2006, scuttled in part by Karl Rove, who was rumored to have questioned Steele's competence.

I suspect most Democrats didn't necessarily have a "favorite" among the RNC contenders, but Steele probably won't strike fear in the hearts of DNC members. We are, after all, talking about a man who got caught hiring homeless people to lie to voters, and nevertheless lost in a landslide.

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