In a 2009 interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Steele made the case that all these years after Martin Luther King’s famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial, “you now have two African-American men sitting at the pinnacle of political power in this country—one running the country and the Democratic Party, the other running the Republican, the national Republican Party.”
Steele says Obama never accepted his invitation for a social get-together, extended in 2005 after the new senator from Chicago arrived in Washington. But he says “he and I had, I think, a very good moment” when Obama gave him a shout-out at last spring’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
“Michael Steele is in the house tonight,” Obama said. “Or as he would say, ‘in the heezy,’ ” using urban slang for “house” to make good-natured fun of Steele’s attempts to give the Republicans a hipper image. “What’s up?” Obama asked to laughter as Steele stood in response, clearly tickled that the President had singled him out of the celebrity-studded crowd.
What is up with Steele?
If 2010 turns out to be a good Republican year, it would lift Steele’s stock. A second term as party chairman, which he appears to want, would carry him through the 2012 presidential election. After that, perhaps a Cabinet job, if Republicans unseat Obama, or maybe a lucrative private-sector position. Steele makes no secret of his desire to be Maryland’s first black governor. But that goal may be out of reach in one of the nation’s most Democratic states.
Some in Republican circles think he sees himself as a presidential contender. Steele says he’s focused only on raising money and winning elections. His new book, Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda, just out from conservative Regnery Publishing, is fueling theories about loftier intentions, even if the sales won’t threaten Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue.
A White House try would be the ultimate roller-coaster trip. Steele won’t categorically rule it out. But he insists he doesn’t view himself as a candidate and adds, “I don’t plot that far out.”
Right now, “this is where God wants me,” says Steele. “I have no idea what the future holds.”
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