Defiant Steele Asks, 'Why Should I' Quit GOP Leadership?

Michael Steele fended off criticism of his leadership, saying Sunday he has had no thoughts of quitting his Republican National Committee chairmanship despite harsh criticism of his first-year performance and controversy over his recent book, which was released last week to the surprise of key Republican operatives.

Saying he's "very passionate" about helping the party win elections and raise money, Steele said he's not going to resign because "Why should I?"

"I'm pushing the ball. I'm raising the money. I'm winning elections. I've got the base fired up. We're out in the country every day. We're doing the things that we should be doing to party-build," he told "Fox News Sunday."

Steele said the focus is on him "because that's what Washington wants to focus on." But, he added, outside the Beltway, he's got the focus on winning elections.

Steele said he is guilty of getting "a little bit hot-headed" but he is trying to push the party to lift its head, move forward and engage Americans on conservative principles.

"We haven't done that in a long time. And it's time we're starting to do it," he said, citing gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia in November.

Earlier this week, Steele responded to recent reports that GOP leaders are unhappy with his performance, saying, "If you don't want me in the job, fire me. But until then, shut up. Get with the program, or get out of the way."

On Sunday, Steele became the first high-level Republican to call for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's resignation for describing then-presidential candidate Barack Obama as "light-skinned" with "no Negro dialect unless he wants to have one." Reid apologized, saying he was not trying to insult the president, but praise him.

Steele's response was much more fiery than his initial tepid remarks to the news a day earlier. Some had suggested the reason for his stilted reply was due to his own use of the racially charged term "honest injun" during an interview last week.

But Steele said he never intended a racial slur and if it is, he apologized. He then added that those accusations have nothing to do with complaints about his ability to lead.

"The reality of it is that's not the same as what we were talking about before. That's not saying I'm some loose cannon and wild, you know, dog out here running around not being able to be controlled," he said.

Steele's book, "Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda," accuses Republican party leaders of abandoning conservative principles over the past decade. Steele said it was supposed to come out in 2008, but was delayed, in part, by the mega-release of former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's tome, "Going Rogue."

"With respect to the leadership, I thought that that process had already been taken care of from within the party and the staffing and all of that, that they had been notified of that. And for that, I apologize. It was not trying to blindside anybody in that regard," Steele said.

Steele also fought back criticism by his predecessor about his receiving $20,000 for each speech he gives while the party is having money problems.

"I did 12 speeches last year, some of which I got paid for, some of which I didn't," he said. "I did over 400 events for the RNC. I raised $80 million last year. I won two governors' races. I won 27 out of 37 special elections last year. And I've got cash on hand to carry over into this year. So it was a very good year."

Based on the political landscape entering 2010, Steele said the 60-vote supermajority Democrats currently hold in the Senate is "gone. It's toast, over" after November. He also said Republicans are well on their way to taking back the House -- a turnaround from earlier this week when he wavered about whether Republicans are able to win this year.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, who appeared with Steele, said Steele is right not to be too confident about Republicans retaking the majority since "they're not ready to lead."

"The Republicans were standing by and letting American economy bleed 800,000 jobs a month one year ago. It's down to less than 100,000 this month. There was a slight up-tick in jobs last month. So we've cut the job losses by 90 percent with no help from the Republicans."

Kaine added that despite the history of the president's party losing seats in the first midterm election, Democrats have "got a record of presidential success to sell."

"We're going to have a health care bill that is a historic effort that presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have tried. This president is going to make it happen. We've taken an economy that was in free fall and turned it around," Kaine said.

"The great thing about the Obama team is we don't mind running up a hill. We climbed Everest in 2008 and we're going to climb Pike's Peak this year," he added.

Steele responded that "no jobs, no health care, $13 trillion worth of debt and no sense of direction" is nothing to celebrate.

Fox News' Megan Whittemore contributed to this report.