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Michael Steele Unveiled

After hours of speculation, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's campaign acknowledged yesterday afternoon that Steele was the anonymous Republican quoted in Dana Milbank's column in the Washington Post on Tuesday.

The column, for those who missed it, described a Republican from a blue state declaring that his party affiliation was "an impediment", that the war in Iraq "didn't work" and the response to Katrina, "a monumental failure of government."

After a flurry of guessing--much of it centered on Steele--his campaign staffed fessed up

"When he agrees with the Republican administration, he absolutely does so," spokesman Doug Heye said. "When he disagrees, he speaks his mind."

This morning, appearing at a news conference about the Prince George's Classic football game, Steele had nothing to say for himself. He left before the program ended, ignoring reporters shouting questions at him as he walked out the back door.

So how does that leave Republicans feeling about their standard bearer?

Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, the arm of the party that recruits Senate candidates, said there would be no drop-off in national party support for Steele. "Michael's always been an independent voice and speaks his mind, always has been," he said. "Michael Steele's name is on the ballot. His campaign is going to make its own decisions."

Democrats, both in Maryland and in Washington, were quick to jump on the comments. "He realizes that he can't win being a conservative Republican in Maryland in 2006," said Maryland Democratic Party spokesman Arthur Harris. "He's out of touch with the majority of Marylanders."

In a statement, Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman pointed out that Steele, despite distancing himself from Bush, has held fundraisers with numerious Republican luminaries, including the President himself, Vice President Cheney, Bush adviser Karl Rove and Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman.

Nationally, Democrats eagerly pointed to Steele as an example of Republicans running away from Bush in the mid-term elections.

A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee news release dubbed Steele "a premier member of Republicans Anonymous" and highlighted the fact that Steele's campaign Web site does not mention he is a Republican.

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  July 26, 2006; 7:34 AM ET
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