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Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele abandoned his re-election bid Friday after four rounds of balloting left him far short of a second term.
Steele, who just finished his first two-year term in the job, dropped out as four other hopefuls competed to become his successor.
Steele, 52, urged his backers to give their support to GOP operative Maria Cino, who worked in George W. Bush‘s administration, but Reince Priebus, the head of the Wisconsin Republican Party, ultimately was elected after seven rounds of voting.
The GOP’s first black chairman received a standing ovation from the party regulars after pulling out of the race.
His spotty two-year reign included huge victories by the GOP in the November elections, but for many, Steele is known more for his verbal gaffes than his electoral accomplishments.
Let’s take a look at some of the best. Thanks for the memories, Michael!
October 2010: Uhh, remind me again, what’s the minimum wage?
Steele came under fire after admitting that he doesn’t know what the federal minimum wage is.
“What is the minimum wage, Michael?” the host asked.
“You really like the minimum wage, don’t you?” Steele said, laughing. When O’Donnell said it was okay to say he didn’t know what it was, Steele snapped and accused him of “trap playing.”
February 2009: You know what the GOP really needs? A hip-hop makeover!
“We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles,” he told the newspaper. “But we want to apply them to urban-suburban, hip-hop settings.”
When asked if the makeover would be cutting-edge, Steele responded, “I don’t do ‘cutting edge.’ That’s what the Democrats are doing. We’re doing beyond cutting-edge.”
January 2010: “Honest injun on that.”
Steele wasn’t convinced he’d said anything wrong after Fox host Chris Wallace pointed out “congressmen of both parties say that’s a racial slur.”
“Well, if it is, I apologize for it,” answered Steele, insisting he didn’t mean it that way when he described the RNC platform last week as the best in 25 years, topping it off by declaring “Honest injun on that.”
December 2010: I know why some other GOPers don’t like me — It’s because I’m a street guy!
Shortly after announcing that he’d make a bid for a second term, Steele went on Fox News to chat about decision. Fox host Greta Van Susteren asked Steele why he’s taking so much heat from some Republicans about his decision.
“My style is a little bit different than most conventional party chairmen,” he responded. “My style is more grassroots-oriented, I’m much more of a street guy.”
January 2010: Is the GOP ready to lead? Beats the hell out of me!
Steele wrongfully predicted that the GOP would not regain control of the House during the 2010 midterm elections.
“Not this year,” said Steele when asked by Fox News’ Sean Hannity. He added, “We still have vacancies that need to get filled. If we do that, are we ready? I don’t know. That’s what I’m assessing and evaluating now.”
April 2010: Blacks don’t have a reason to vote GOP.
After speaking to an African-American audience in Chicago, an audience member asked why black voters should vote Republican.
“You really don’t have a reason to, to be honest — we haven’t done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True,” said Steele.
Steele enraged members on both sides of the political aisle when he said Afghanistan is a “war of Obama’s choosing,” even though it began years before the President took office.
To top it off, he added at the GOP fund-raiser, “This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”
November 2010: Nancy Pelosi will sit on the “back of the bus.”
During remarks of the RNC in Kansas City, the GOP chairman announced a six-week “Fire Nancy Pelosi bus tour.” He urged supporters to get on the bus, predicting that “Nancy Pelosi will be in the back of the bus.”
Of course, “back of the bus” imagery, critics argued was reminiscent of past segregation in the South.
March 2009: Abortion is an “individual choice.”
Steele told GQ magazine that he believes abortion is an individual choice, to the surprise of many Republicans. He later tried to clarify his statements, and seemed to have a change of heart. “I am pro-life,” Steele wrote. “Always have been, always will be.”
March 2009: My gaffes happen for a reason.
His notorious verbal blunders are all part of his strategy, he told CNN’s Don Lemon.
“I am very introspective about things,” Steele said. “I don’t do — I am a cause-and-effect kind of guy. So If I do something, there’s a reason for it. Even, it may look like a mistake, a gaffe. There is a rationale, there’s a logic behind it.”
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