RALEIGH — National Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele came to the state capital Thursday to talk up local GOP candidates for the U.S. House and dismiss talk of party divisions.
About 70 cheering supporters waited outside state Republican headquarters to greet Steele on one of the first stops of his national "Fire Pelosi" bus tour. The reference is to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the GOP effort to win a majority in the House this November.
Voter discontent, high unemployment and polls showing increased public pessimism suggest a good year for Republican candidates. Still, Steele sought to play down divisions within the party evidenced by establishment Republicans battling candidates backed by the tea party movement in recent primaries.
"There is no civil war," Steele said in response to a reporter's question. "When did that break out?"
But later, in his address to GOP supporters, he talked of his frustration with party infighting.
"I'm so sick of a Republican kicking a Republican in the shin," he said. "Would you turn around and kick a Democrat, please?" He urged the crowd to work every day for the outcome they want - Republican control of Congress.
"It's time to return to who we are," he said. "A grass roots party."
Steele is one of several high-profile politicians and commentators coming to the Carolinas this month. Karl Rove will speak at UNC-Chapel Hill next week, Pelosi will travel to South Carolina, and Ann Coulter is scheduled to attend a Wake County Republican Women's Club fundraiser in Raleigh on Sunday.
Steele hammered on the $13.4 trillion national debt and the new health law, which he called "Obamacare."
State GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer was not on hand for Steele's visit. State Rep. David Lewis of Dunn handled the hosting duties.
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