Discuss as:

Steele and the party of Lincoln

From NBC's Mark Murray
Earlier this month, the candidates for RNC chairman -- every single one of them -- cited Ronald Reagan as their favorite Republican president.

Today, with Michael Steele becoming the party's first African-American chairman, they turned to Abraham Lincoln.

After the fourth round of voting, Ken Blackwell -- who is also black -- dropped out and referred to Lincoln before endorsing Steele. "We must be a party that makes good on the promise of Lincoln," he said.

Then Steele mentioned Lincoln at a press conference after his victory. "It is just one more bold step the party of Lincoln has taken," he said.

When the race turned into a contest between Steele and South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson -- who once belonged to a whites-only country club -- the choice for some RNC members became obvious, especially after Barack Obama made history last week by becoming the nation's first African-American president.

Besides race, picking Steele over Dawson was a signal that Republicans wanted to expand their reach beyond the South -- as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his party yesterday.

"It is time to get to work," Steele said. "We've got a party to build."