NBC's Sarah Blackwill reports that embattled RNC Chairman Michael Steele declared today he is staying put.
"I ain't going anywhere," Steele said to cheers at the opening Colorado Republican Party’s "Victory" program in Colorado. "I'm here. I'm here. Look, we have too much work to do; we have too much work to do."
*** UPDATE 2 *** He added, "Look, every time something happens, people go, 'Oh, you should step down, step down. Well, the reality of it is that's not happening, so stop the noise on that."
After saying the party doesn't need the "distraction," and that he's focused on "winning" and a "winning message," he addressed his comments on Afghanistan.
"On the other matter, in terms of Afghanistan and all of that," Steele began, "let me be very clear: Absolutely, without equivocation, or doubt or hesitation, I'm foursquare, a thousand percent with our troops on the ground. My goodness, do not leave these young men and women without the resources they need. And that should have been very, very clear -- that I think it's important for us to recognize that this war on terrorism was brought to our shores and we must fight it. We must fight it. And we will fight it and we will win it, because that's what the resolve of the American people is on this. That's part of that exceptionalism again that we bring to this."
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*** UPDATE *** Rough log of Steele's remarks:
How's it going out here in Colorado! it is so exciting to see so many of you here this morning - making the phone calls - having the cup of coffee when you make the phone calls- I really do appreciate it - you're the heart and soul of this effort and this office launch is the first of many great launches that are going to be taking palce here in Colorado - in California - in Washington - in New York - all across the country. and I'm just very very excited to be here, to be a part of it and to help get the drumbeat rolling towards november - there's a lot of exciting things happening out there. I want to touch on a few of them.Clearly, the media's excited about what's happening here in Colorado - the people are interested in what's happening in Colorado - you are interested in what's happening here because this is your backyard. this is where it all matters and where it all comes down to whether or not as the congressman noted we're going to stay on a path of freedom, we're going to stay on a path of free markets and free enterprise, we're going to stay on a path that allows you to find the future for your families and your communities, or we're going to get on a path that has the govt defining that future for you. I firmly reject any effort to put us on a path that diminishes our liberties or our freedoms, that takes away the opportunity for a small business owner to go out and take on that risk, for a mom and a dad to raise a kid the way they want, to educate that child the way they feel empowered to do. I reject anything that takes those rights - that privilege away from families and communities - that's why you're here - and that's why you have such a great team assembled here - from and congressmen - to the party leadership, to the activists like yourselves that make a big difference everyday in the success of the party here. We've come a long way, baby, haven't we. This has not been the easiest road. We've watched a lot of transition and changes here in Colorado - we've seen this state, you know, celebrate Obama two years ago. Well guess what? You're going to celebrate victory in November when you start retiring Harry Reid and firing Nancy Pelosi and (applause) putting this country back on the right course.
I do want to acknowledge the leadership here because I don't want to contradict my boss but Lily is actually my boss, as is Dick and as is Mark Hillman - they are the ones I'm ultimately responsible to on your behalf. They come to the table with the battle plan and they look at the RNC as a partner and they expect that partnership to be open and honest and fair - and I am very very excited to work with them and national committee woman and natl committee men (cam off Steele) in their efforts not just to rebuild but to continue to build on past successes - to continue to go out and find new and exciting candidates and boy do you have a good, good group of candidates running.
I know the primaries are tough times and people sort of size up one way or the other but in the end, when the primaries are over, we're going to focus like a laser beam on the general election. and the nominee of our party for the governorship - for Senate - for the House races - for the state legislative races. And we're going to win folks, we're going to win. ...this young man is going to be working with the party leadership, with the congressional delegation, with the leadership that is going to be necessary and coming from the grassroots to make sure we get it done - to make sure we get it done - and so I salute you sir and I thank you very much. Don't screw it up (laughter) - don't screw it up. No pressure, no pressure (Steele off cam) yeah - you don't want to get that phone call. And he won't because he's a good man...andThis is such an important crossroads for our party and such an important crossroads for our nation's economic future and health and we want to make sure that we put our best foot forward and we put the best teams out there - the fact that you're here at this hr of the morning, volunteering, making the phone calls, it makes my heart swell w pride. here we are over a year later. We all remember what it was like in the dark days, right? 06, 08, parts of 09 when many of you were trying to convince a friend or a neighbor to run for office and they were like no way, no how. well we've come a long way since then. we've turned a lot of corners - and this party has found it's footing - it's re-acnchored itself in core principles - it's focused on the future with a sense of purpose. We saw the line drawn in the sand by our congressional delegation on the stimulus - that was an important defining moment for us - when our leadership said 'no', we're not going to spend our children's future blind - we're not going to go into the future burdening them with debt. that was a galvanizing moment. and then through the health care debate, card check, cap and trade, all of these issues that distort the market - that strip away individual freedoms and opportunities. you're the front lines in that fight.People don't really appreciate what it takes to win a campaign - right? My brother's laughing over there - he;s like, no, they have no idea.Because they think it's all - just run a TV commercial or just stand out and hand out a flier - you know it's much more than that - in 2009, for example in the governor's race in VA, the governor's race in NJ, we did unprecedented levels of voter contact - 5.8 million voters were touched by our party, were asked to become involved, were asked to become a part of this renaissance for the GOP in terms of the work that has to be done. 165,000 volunteer hrs - it tripled what we did in the presidential just the yr before - that's the power that you have - that galvanizing force that you have. So don't lose sight w that, don't lose tough w that...We win here, we take that governorship, that US Senate seat, we pick up those congressional seats, we make our play for the state house and the state senate - the world will be watching and they'll see how it's done here in Colorado. And it's a good lesson to teach the party and the nation about what hard, grassroots activism, campaigning is all about.So don't believe the hype that it can't get done - don't believe the noise that, oh, at the end of the day the Democrats are really going to survive...what, under Nancy Pelosi? you're kidding me? (laughter) Harry Reid? what, really? Really? So - we have our work cut out for us, we know that....under the chairman's leadership is going to get executed upon, your efforts on the ground is going to make all the difference for us - and I'll be very very honest w you, I'm here to launch that and to have us say as a unified party we're ready. and to paraphrase our good friend Ronald Reagan, come November, we win, they lose.At 17 yrs old, I made the conscious decision to join the Republican party - now, as a Roman Catholic, conservative black man from Washington DC, that was not necessarily the easiest thing to do (laughter). All right? But it was an important step for me in setting out my own individuality - which from time gets me in a little trouble, but that's OK, we understand how that works.I ain't going anywhere (cheers) I'm here - I'm here. Look, we have too much work to do, we have too much work to do...off cam: You are the man in the arena - as Theodore Roosevelt said...Steele: Right. (laughs) The arena closes in on you sometimes, but its all good, it's all good. You got to go through those changes, absolutely - and look, I talk about the party in very active terms, not passive terms. I talk about turning the elephant to face it's future w the American people....I made the early decision to commit our resources up front - as opposed to what we've done in the past where the chairman - and we didn't have a discussion about victory until august at the earliest. 3044 where people would come and say, oh, well, it's now time to set up a victory program. well - guess what - in august, some of our states they still have primaries, in September some of them will be setting up early voting, and you're just setting up a victory office and trying to get organized on the ground...I know people kind of looked at the bottom line of the RNC and go - well - your numbers should be here. Well - yeah - under the old regime they would be there. But we made the early investment in you, our volunteers, our activists, our candidates, our state party, our infrastructure, so we could get the phones on the ground, we could get the walking list together, we could identify the volunteers, we could identify the voters, we could get out and we could actually start talking to people in February and March as opposed to September and October....I said this to the chairman already - what do you need? what else do you need? let us know - so we can begin to put those things in place so that we're not scrambling at the last moment to win an election, but instead we're out in front, so that effort has been underway, it's been a great - a great job to see it come online...
We're winning in the Northeast - can you believe that for the first time we're winning in the Northeast - New Jersey, Massachusetts, all of this has been a part of that effort and there's much more to come...
I've learned politics through some pretty hard knocks - it hasn't been easy being a Republican in DC - it hasn't been easy being a Republican in Maryland, but this fight has always been worth it to me because the things that drew me to the party still matter and I hope they will into the future, and I hope they will for all of you.
To the point that you just raised about stepping down, look, every time something happens, people go - oh, you should step down, step down. Well the reality of it is that's not happening so stop the noise on that. (applause) Number two, you don't need the distraction. We're focused on winning. We're focused on a winning message. We're focused on winning candidates. We're focused on a winning state. We're focused on pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and then from time to time reaching over and helping a neighbor do the same thing. So that's really been the emphasis for me and it's an important emphasis I think going into this fall campaign. On the other matter, in terms of Afghanistan and all of that - let me be very clear. Absolutely, without equivocation, or doubt or hesitation - I'm foursquare, a thousand percent with our troops on the ground. My goodness, do not leave these young men and women without the resources they need. And that should have been very, very clear - that I think it's important for us to recognize that this war on terrorism was brought to our shores and we must fight it. We must fight it. And we will fight it and we will win it, because that's what the resolve of the American people is on this. That's part of that exceptionalism again that we bring to this.
You're right, during the presidential campaign as I said in my earlier statement - the president as a candidate and now as president has made it clear which direction he wanted to move into. The only concern and issue that we should ever have is: are our troops getting what they need on the ground? are they being supported? are they winning the battle? and that's the thing that matters the most. And so - let's not lose sight of winning, whether it's winning this November or the future of our families and our businesses or winning longer-term in the battle against Al Qaeda and terrorism for our country and our world.
Question: You should have said - Obama is failing as Commander-In-Chief, OK?
oh yeah, that would have gone over well...yeah - that would have - look, I know where your heart is on this - at the end of the day it goes back to this - whatever course this administration chooses to take needs to be very clear and it needs to be understood by the American people. And it needs to be executed in a way that protects lives here, protects lives in the theater of war on the ground - and obtains victory. That's it - and, you know, I think that that for me is the key thing. Our troops must know that. They know our hearts are with them. We want to make sure that the strategy's there. I'm so excited to see General Petraeus taking the lead and the charge there - I'm so excited and I think it offers a greater opportunity for us to succeed and move forward and win this thing. Let's just win it, folks. Let's not quibble or quabble over what he said or what he didn't say, what the president said or what he didn't say, let's long-term stand behind our troops and win this war. It's that simple.