"Come on, don't ask me that," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said when presented with the inevitable question about his 2012 intentions and if his political aspirations included running for the White House next time around.
Half-way through his term as chairman of the Republican Party and wrapping up the RNC's annual winter meeting here at a beachside resort in President Obama's home state, Michael Steele clearly sees himself bringing a different style of leadership to a GOP in transition.
"In all honest-to-good seriousness, that is such silly Washington talk. It's just not even on my mind," Steele said about a possible presidential run.
"Let me tell you where my head and heart are," Steele added. "I'm a guy who thought it important to say, 'Put me in coach.' And when I help the party return to a governing majority, a stronger GOP, a party that really understands what it's about and what it believes in and is willing every day to go out there and fight for it."
Why not rule it out completely and keep those Washington tongues from wagging?
"I just did. I don't know how many different ways I can do that," Steele said. "How many different ways can you spell 'no'?"
There is little doubt that Steele will seek to return to elected office at some point in his future. And, of course, Barack Obama pretty much rendered such refusals and demurrals rather meaningless by stating on "Meet the Press" in January 2006 that he would not be a candidate for president in 2008 only to appear on the same program in October 2006 to announce he was open to a candidacy.
Steele's tenure at the helm of the RNC has not been without controversy. Most recently he and his team have had to battle back stories about his prediction that Republicans are not going to take back the majority in the House of Representatives this year and his occasional paid speeches around the country.
He chalks up some of the perhaps unwanted attention he gets in the press to what he describes as his unconventional style of leadership.
"Sometimes it's deliberate. Sometimes it's accidental," he said of discussing his penchant for pushing the rhetorical envelope. "I'm a very passionate guy. Sometimes I'll push the envelope because I want to get a rise, I want to see if you're paying attention. But then I realize, oh gee, they're more focused on me as opposed to the problem I was trying to highlight.
"And so that's when you realize, OK, I've got to approach this a little differently and you know have some more creative ways to do that."
When asked if he would work to avoid the sometimes accidental rhetoric that causes him and his aides occasional heartache, he said, "Oh, no. Accidents happen, baby."
In the current issue of Washingtonian magazine, Steele wondered aloud if his race was part of the reason his critics were feeding some of the negative storylines about him that have emerged over the course of his tenure.
"I don't see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?" Steele is quoted as asking in the piece.
"It's not because of my race, but race is more of a factor than it ordinarily would be -- just as it is for Barack Obama," Steele said in response to a question following up on the Washingtonian piece.