The current chairman told a conservative reporter last week that he was prepared to put his record up against those who wanted his position -- foreshadowing what could be a bitter and divisive election battle in January 2011.
"Norm is an old friend," Steele said when asked about recent reports that Coleman was considering a run for chairmanship of the RNC. "Norm is not going to challenge me for RNC chairman. If he does I'll put my record up against anyone who comes after to me. I feel confident we'll get re-elected. I'm not worried about that part of it."
The remarks, the first Steele has offered with respect to a potential Coleman bid, were reported by Evan Gahr, a freelance reporter based in New York. How they were obtained seems bound to spur a debate about the conventions and ethics of modern political reporting. Gahr called Steele up at his home residence in Maryland, pretending to be a hedge fund executive and prospective RNC donor. He waited until near the end of the interview to reveal his identity.
"Activists call all the time," Steele said upon finding out he was talking to a reporter. "They don't try to sneak an interview. That is not kosher."
The Huffington Post held off on publishing Gahr's account until it's authenticity was verified. RNC spokesman Doug Heye confirmed the account on Monday.
In addition to taking on Coleman, Gahr posed a variety of provocative questions to the embattled RNC Chairman, though none that produced the intrinsic news value as the Coleman query.
On the notion that he hasn't been fired because he's black, Steele said: "I didn't hear that. Everybody's got a reason why I haven't got fired. I haven't been fired because I've been doing my job. My won-loss record is better than any chairman in the last 10 years."
On fears that money donated to the RNC would end up going "to strippers" Steele replied: "That's crazy. That was a staffer who got fired as soon as I heard about it. We put all the appropriate controls and not one dollar goes to that kind of activity."