Washington Babylon — January 31, 2009, 9:31 am

A Trip Down Memory Lane With Michael Steele

Michael Steele, yesterday after winning the post of RNC chairman:

“We have an image problem,” Steele said. “We’ve been misidentified as party that is insensitive, a party unconcerned about the lives of minorities. I’m saying enough’s enough, that day is over.”

Washington Post, November 13, 2006

The six Trailways motorcoaches draped in Ehrlich and Steele campaign banners rumbled down Interstate 95 just before dawn on Election Day.

On board, 300 mostly poor African Americans from Philadelphia ate doughnuts, sipped coffee and prepared to spend the day at the Maryland polls. After an early morning greeting from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s wife, Kendel, they would fan out in white vans across Prince George’s County and inner-city Baltimore, armed with thousands of fliers that appeared to be designed to trick black Democrats into voting for the two Republican candidates.

The glossy fliers bore photos of black Democratic leaders on the front. Under the headline “Democratic Sample Ballot” were boxes checked in red for Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, who were not identified as Republicans. Their names were followed by a long list of local Democratic candidates.

Nearly a week later, a fuller picture has emerged about how the plan to capture blacks’ votes unfolded — details that suggest the fliers, and the people paid to distribute them, were not part of a hurry-up effort but a calculated strategy.

Republican leaders have defended the Election Day episode as an accepted element of bare-knuckle politics. But for many voters, it shattered in one day the nice-guy images Ehrlich and Steele had cultivated for years.

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More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

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How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

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A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

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