GOP to Michael Steele: Quiet About Rush Limbaugh or You're Fired

Top advisers are angry Steele opened a party rift and suggest dumping him if relations aren't repaired.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Apology to Rush Limbaugh aside, new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is coming under fire from his own GOP troops to shut up and focus on his job of organizing the party and raising money, not fighting with his own political kind. Several Republican advisers to Congress and the previous Bush administration told Whispers that they are worried that the war of words is fracturing the party when it should be healing the division between conservatives and moderates in the wake of the 2008 election.

"What is amazing is that Steele was elected because of his communications skills, and it is those skills that are damaging the Republican Party. Before people begin to completely judge him as worthless, Steele needs to focus and knuckle down on building a strong foundation at RNC so we can begin rebuilding our majority," says a top GOP strategist who has worked for House and Senate Republican leaders. "If his implosion continues, RNC members are likely to call a special session to dump him for an effective chairman. There is not much patience for failure."

Others want Steele to re-evaluate his role in the party. Of concern: For no reason, he is dividing the GOP between conservatives who like Limbaugh and moderates who don't and jeopardizing future fundraising efforts, his key responsibility. "The general sentiment of the conference is that Steele needs to step back and get a handle on his role in the party," says an influential congressional aide. Namely, advisers want him to stay out of the media and focus instead on hiring his staff and revamping the RNC. "He needs to hire staff for the RNC, get the operations up and running, start raising money, and understand that his role is to win elections," says a senior party adviser. Officials are concerned that Steele either doesn't understand his responsibilities or has an inflated vision of his role. "At this point, it is as if he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the job description. An RNC chairman who attacks Republicans and insults conservative icons is about as counterproductive as any Democrat could hope for," says the adviser.

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