Can the RNC's New Man of Steele Revive the Party?

After six exciting rounds of balloting, Michael Steele was elected chairman of the RNC. While some rock-ribbed conservatives may have had other dogs in the fight, the general consensus among both conservative and moderate Republicans alike is that the Republicans chose wisely and dodged far worse alternatives. But now what?

Republicans, even with a telegenic chairman, are still in the minority and have serious work to do in repairing the dilapidated party machinery and refashioning the GOP as a more diverse and inclusive national party. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned, "In politics, there's a name for a regional party: it's called a minority party."

Steele has his work cut out for him. There are seven steps he might take to set the party on the road to recovery.

First, Steele should offer to debate DNC Chairman Tim Kaine coast-to-coast on the Democrats' stimulus plan and the economic crisis. This is the number one issue on voters' minds, and for once the Republicans are making headway. The public is souring on the House Democrats' spend-a-thon disguised as a stimulus bill. And Republicans have an attractive message: cut the pork, reduce taxes, and, if we must spend gobs of money, do it on worthwhile infrastructure and needed national defense projects. Steele is a capable and likeable figure who could communicate this message well. And a debate offer would signify that the Republicans aren't afraid to take on the administration when it is wrong. (It would also give Steele a high visibility platform to re-establish the GOP's populist credentials, by among other things, taking on the Obama administration's not very New Politics -- including the White House's proclivity to hire ex-lobbyists and tax cheats.)

Second, Steele should call in Mitt Romney or another respected business figure like Fed Ex's Fred Smith to conduct a top-to-bottom audit of the RNC and recommend needed reforms. The RNC is, in essence, a company in need of a turnaround. Certainly some business acumen would come in handy. The RNC needs one- and five-year plans for, among other things, technology, fundraising, personnel, and recruiting. Steele isn't expected to have all the answers. By reaching out to successful business talent, he would demonstrate that the RNC values competency, efficiency, and free market expertise.