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Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele on Wednesday continued his critical talk of his successor, wondering how current RNC chair Reince Priebus can mesh the organization's much-ballyhooed minority outreach with the GOP's push for tougher voter registration laws widely viewed as discriminatory.
Steele defended his record as head of the RNC from 2009 until 2011, touting his own efforts to reach out to constituencies that don't typically vote Republican.
"You come in and you put boots on the ground. You go out and you talk to people directly," Steele, an MSNBC contributor, said during an appearance on "Morning Joe." "And you expose the party in a way that is not traditional. I argue taking the party outside of its comfort zone. A lot of members at the time thought that was a good idea until they realized this is going to require exposure on policy, exposure on principle, exposure on a lot of things that the party just didn't want to be exposed on."
Steele said the RNC's autopsy of the 2012 election does nothing to address the substantive reasons why the party fails to connect with minorities, highlighting voter identification laws championed by many Republicans, including Priebus, that disproportionately affect black voters.
"How does Reince Priebus reconcile his approach and his agreement with voter registration policies that many in the black community view as anti-black, racist, whatever the term happens to be," Steele said. "You've got to reconcile how people feel about your policies, not just the fact that you're going to show up. You can show up any time. It's what you say and what you do when you get there that matters most to people."
At the RNC's rollout of its 2012 post-mortem earlier this week, Priebus took a thinly veiled shot at Steele for leaving the RNC in financial shambles. Steele fired back by contrasting his track record with Priebus. "I won, and he didn't," Steele said.
Update: Priebus declined to enage the point directly during an appearance on MSNBC later in the day, but noted — as he did earlier in the week — that the RNC was in financial disarray when Steele stepped down as chairman in 2011.