Michael Steele, a lightning rod for criticism during his chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, on Wednesday sought to claim a measure of credit for the party's titanic congressional wins Tuesday.
The former Maryland lieutenant governor told reporters on a conference call that his unorthodox approach to running the committee, often criticized, proved enormously successful.
"My goal from the very, very beginning was to devolve activity away from Washington, D.C., away from the Republican National Committee, and put it in the hands of the states," he said.
Steele said that while Beltway critics focused on the RNC's low cash on hand totals, his committee raised $175 million in two years, which he said was a record for an out-of-power party. The money was then quickly disbursed to states.
"As a consequence of those investments … we were able to reach out and touch over 45 million voters," he said.
For more than 20 minutes, Steele detailed steps he took as chairman to resurrect a party he said was left for dead two years ago. But when asked explicitly whether he felt he deserved credit for GOP gains, Steele said he didn't want to get into the "Washington game."
"I really do believe in the team effort," he said. "I really do believe that no one single person or committee does this alone."
Steele is expected to seek a second term as committee chair in 2011. He acknowledged that his approach often rankled his colleagues, saying his "learning curve was steep."
"I bring a lot of passion to this game," he said. "I'm not a conventional player. I speak my mind. And I learned very quickly in this job that's a dangerous thing to do."