Michael Steele and Bloggers: A 'Steele Curtain' or an Olive Branch?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Feb 02, 2009 9:16 AM


Michael Steele
frequently reads blogs at 2 o'clock in the morning. 

... At least, that's what he told me a few months ago during our first (and only) blogger conference call conversation.  His interest in blogs rings true, inasmuch as he apparently spent an hour on the phone with blogger Rob Bluey, after Bluey endorsed another candidate for RNC chairman and wrote a post in opposition to Steele's election as RNC chairman.

Unlike the Democrats, who in 2005 followed the lead of bloggers and elected Howard Dean chairman, the 168 members of the RNC seemed to pay little attention to the concerns of conservative bloggers, who were among Steele's harshest critics. 

But while Steele clearly didn't need the support of bloggers to become RNC chairman, he certainly can not afford to alienate them if he hopes to be deemed a successful chairman (where the support of 168 insiders will matter much less than the support of bloggers).

This, of course, won't be easy... 

Already, bloggers Mike Krempasky, Rob Bluey, and Erick Erickson have launched an effort to encourage Steele to retain popular RNC tech guru Cyrus Krohn.  And blogger and tech guru Patrick Ruffini is already Tweeting advice on what Steele should do first (Steele signed-on to Ruffini's "Rebuild the Party" platform). 

This may all be good advice, but it is also unsolicited advice made public.  What is more, it comes just hours after Steele's election.

Other bloggers will be watching closely to see whether or not he dispenses RNC patronage jobs to his campaign staff and supporters -- and which consultants land lucrative vending and consulting contracts with the RNC.  And everyone will be watching to see if the RNC is run in a competent manner, and if fundraising is on track.  Clearly, it would be helpful for Steele to reach out to these bloggers.

... Which brings me to my main point.  When Barack Obama was about to become president, he shrewdly met with columnists and opinion leaders on his left and right.  It will be interesting to see whether or not a "Steele curtain" will descend around the RNC, shutting our dissent and bloggers who opposed Steele -- or if, instead, Steele extends a similar olive branch to conservative bloggers. 

My own unsolicited advice, of course, is to hold a meeting asap. CPAC is just around the corner ...