ST. PAUL, Minn. – Maryland’s former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will speak to the Republican National Convention as scheduled today, his press assistant said Monday, despite the abbreviation of most convention activities while Hurricane Gustav ravages the Gulf Coast.
Steele, the most prominent Marylander scheduled to have a speaking role at the convention, was originally slated to speak Tuesday evening. After Sen. John McCain called for a curtailed convention schedule to assist states in the path of the hurricane, Steele was scheduled for Monday.
Steele, whose address is expected to highlight the relationship between McCain’s experience and his judgment, is expected to take the stage Tuesday at 8:50 p.m. Central time.
Steele is also likely to speak to the Maryland delegation on Wednesday or Thursday, said Chris Cavey, the chairman of Maryland for McCain.
Steele, who was conducting interviews with radios stations Monday, declined to comment for this story.
“Steele was offered the position as a way of the Republican Party recognizing that he’s a true leader and someone that everyone’s going to get to know over the next four years in any case,” said Andrew Langer, the Eastern Shore director of McCain’s campaign. “Whereas (Barack) Obama and (Delaware Sen. Joe) Biden came to power under the same corrupt Democratic Party machine of the past, Steele is someone who will bring the Republicans into the future.”
Steele recently was a commentator for Fox News. In 2006, he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Ben Cardin. His speaking role this week has raised questions about his plans to run for another office in 2010.
“The fact is that Michael Steele is now a legitimate national figure who so many in the party are talking about and recognizing,” said Anthony O’Donnell, minority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates. “His potential is unbounded, and he has many years to come on the scene.”
Steele also addressed the Republican National Convention in 2004 as Maryland’s first black statewide elected official. His talk then was designed to counter a Democratic convention speech by Barack Obama, who was then running for his current Senate seat in Illinois, according to published reports at the time.
“Honestly, his role now has less to do with the fact that he’s a black Republican leader compared to Obama than the fact that the force of his vision is extraordinary,” said Langer. “He’s a great leader, period.”
Steele holds a degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University as well as a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He also studied at the Augustinian Friars Seminary at Villanova University where he gave serious thought to joining the priesthood before joining his first law firm.