Steele to Declare End of GOP Soul-Searching; Will Promise to Take On Obama ‘With Dignity’

By Kate Barrett

May 18, 2009 6:04pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein and David Chalian report: RNC Chairman Michael Steele plans to tell GOP leaders tomorrow that the Republican Party has "turned the page" and is on its way to a comeback, asserting that he’s done apologizing for Republican mistakes and stands ready to present the GOP as the party of new ideas.

"The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done," Steele plans to tell state party leaders tomorrow in Maryland, according to advance excerpts of his speech provided to ABC News.

"We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future," Steele plans to say in his first formal speech to RNC members since being elected chairman in January.

The speech, to be delivered tomorrow afternoon at National Harbor, Md., marks an attempt by Steele to re-frame the party’s image — and buck up his troops — after a sometimes troubled early tenure as chairman.

According to GOP officials, Steele plans to drive home two main points. First, he plans to reinforce his belief that now is the time for Republicans to end the party’s prolonged period of self-reflection.

Steele also plans to assert that the principles of his party are timeless, but that the GOP campaign playbooks of the past are no longer sufficient tools for winning elections. He hopes to take the key pillars of the Republican Party — low taxes, strong defense, less government involvement — and apply them to strategies and messages that are relevant in today’s world.

"Republicans may be the minority party at the moment, but we represent the ideas and concerns of the majority of Americans," he plans to say.

Steele is also vowing to draw strong contrasts with President Obama — but "with dignity."

"Candidate Obama was very moderate in his views, but President Obama could not possibly be further to the far left," he plans to say. "We are going to take this president on with class, we are going to take this president on with dignity. This will be a very sharp and marked contrast to the shabby and classless way that the Democrats and the far left spoke of the last president."

The GOP’s resurgence, he will say, is already underway.

"Our comeback is well underway out in the states, I can assure you of that," he plans to say. "The folks inside the Beltway don’t know it yet, but the people are beginning to rally, the comeback has begun. Those of you who live outside of Washington know what I’m talking about. Those of you who actually attend Lincoln Day dinners, county party events, and tea parties…those of you who toil in the vineyards, spending time in communities, in diners, barber shops, and coffee shops where real every day people can be found…you know it is real."

The effort to look forward, Steele will say, is in keeping with the spirit of Ronald Reagan.

"The thing we need to remember is this: Ronald Reagan never lived in the past. Ronald Reagan was all about the future. If President Reagan were here today he would have no patience for Americans who looked backward. Ronald Reagan always insisted that our party must move aggressively to seize the moment, he insisted that our party recognize the truth of the times and establish our first principles in both word and deed."

"As conservatives we must stop acting like we don’t really believe in our principles. Too often we act as if we are scared to apply our timeless principles to today’s problems and challenges… For Reagan’s conservatism to take root in the next generation we must offer genuine solutions that are relevant to this age."

Also at this week’s meeting, state party chairman will vote on a proposed resolution aimed at labeling the Democratic Party a "socialist" party. Steele attempted to throw some cold water on that idea during his appearance on NBC’s "Meet the Press" on Sunday, but a resolution along those lines is expected to receive a vote Wednesday.

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