Under Fire, Steele to Call for Party Unity in Speech on GOP Future

After a rocky first four months in office, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele plans a major speech on the future of his party Tuesday aimed at silencing those in the GOP who've criticized his leadership. 

Steele, in an interview with FOX News, said he's calling on his party to unite around core values. 

"We've got to coalesce around some core ideas and a core vision for this party, which is what I'm laying out this week, and we're going to move forward," he said. "And so, you know, I'll either win you over or I won't. I don't have time to stop and really figure that out for you." 

Some Steele missteps have not won over Republicans. 

It started when he called conservative icon Rush Limbaugh's radio rhetoric ugly. This infuriated the right, and Steele apologized. 

Then he tripped on an abortion question with an answer that sounded pro-abortion rights. He's not in that camp, but the answer made those opposed to abortion rights suspicious. 

Steele also inadvertently cast Republicans as intolerant, suggesting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lost last year's GOP nomination because he's Mormon. 

And now the new RNC chairman is wading into the GOP debate over whether the party should moderate or remain ardently conservative. 

"This is a no-brainer," Steele told FOX News. "I'm a student of multiplication and addition, and not subtraction and division. My focus is on building a party that reaches across the board." 

Steele ripped into conservatives who want moderates purged from the GOP and rejected former Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that in terms of being a Republican, he'd go with Rush Limbaugh over former Secretary of State Colin Powell -- who endorsed candidate Barack Obama for president. 

"I want a party that speaks to people. The idea that we only narrowly speak to one segment of the population is boneheaded and it's not reflective of the history of this party," Steele said. "How is kicking Colin Powell out or kicking Dick Cheney out or Rush Limbaugh in going to feed a child who's hungry tonight?" 

The latest noise within the RNC is over a special party bylaws meeting Wednesday. Conservatives want to zing the Democratic Party by passing a resolution branding it socialist. Steele's used the term himself to describe some Obama policies but opposes labeling the entire party that way 

"My goal was to be smart and strategic. I don't think we need to get into name-calling, finger-pointing and blaming," he said. "What I'd like to see us do is worry less about resolutions and focus more on solutions." 

Conservative RNC members are not happy with Steele and say his opposition to calling the Democratic Party socialist is just the tip of the iceberg 

"He should be encouraged, not discouraged. We should all get on the same page and do it. His making it seem like a war between him and us isn't helping," said David Norcross, a committee member from New Jersey. 

But Steele is not backing down. In fact, he's bracing for an even bigger battle -- with some conservatives wanting to pass a bylaw limiting the chairman's control over RNC money.