Steele Brushes Aside Criticism of 'Street Guy' Style, Aims for 2nd Term

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele brushed aside criticism of his tenure Monday night, taking partial credit for GOP victories in the fall and defending his decision to run for a second term.

Acknowledging he's not the most "conventional" party chairman, Steele told Fox News he enjoys the post and has unfinished business to resolve in electing a Republican president in 2012.

"We have a chance to move forward in a very aggressive way to take on the Obama administration and his agenda, and that's what we're going to do," Steele said.

Steele spoke with Fox News after announcing his decision on a conference call with RNC members. His intentions were unclear until Monday -- the controversial chairman, whose term has been marked by a string of public gaffes, is said to have deliberately kept his plans secret in order to flush out competitors for the post, Fox News has learned.

But Steele chalked up any criticism of his leadership to a clash of styles.

"My style is a little bit different than most conventional Republican Party chairmen. My style is more grass roots-oriented. I'm much more of a street guy. I love hanging out in boardrooms, but I prefer to be in neighborhoods and communities," he said. "My first trip as chairman was to go to Harlem. And a number of members asked me, 'Why are you going to Harlem?' Because that's where the votes are. The party needs to get outside its comfort zone."

Steele reasoned that had the party not done so well in November, he'd be taking the blame. But considering Republicans picked up more than 60 seats in the House, Steele said the RNC helped by raising small-dollar donations that added up to a lot.

"We took advantage of opportunities to go out and raise the money and win the election so we have control of the House. And I'm looking forward to referring to Mr. Boehner as Speaker Boehner," he said.

On the RNC conference call, Steele reviewed his record and vision for about 50 minutes before announcing his decision to run.

According to a copy of his prepared remarks, Steele alluded to his controversial gaffes as chairman: "Yes, I have stumbled along the way, but have always accounted to you for such shortcomings. No excuses. No lies. No hidden agenda."

Criticism of Steele has helped lead to a crowded field of challengers seeking to head the RNC.

Among those who have officially announced they are in the race are Saul Anuzis, a committee member from Michigan who ran and lost to Steele in 2009, and Reince Priebus of Wisconsin, a former member of Steele's inner circle, along with former Luxembourg Ambassador Anne Wagner.

Maria Cino, a former Bush administration official running RNC chairmanship, issued a statement following Steele's announcement that took a jab at Steele's record.

"What I've heard in my conversations with RNC members is that our party needs a leader who can rebuild our voter programs, reclaim our technology dominance and, most importantly, raise and responsibly manage the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to win in 2012," Cino said.

Gentry Collins, a former RNC political director under Steele, is reportedly flirting with a run. Members of the Republican National Committee will select a chairman to lead the organization in January.

Fox News' Jake Gibson and Chris Stirewalt contributed to this report.