By CARL STRAUMSHEIM
TAMPA, Fla.—Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele capped off the Maryland delegation's Wednesday morning breakfast at the Republican National Convention with a fiery pep talk that included criticism of the Democratic Party, as well as his fellow MSNBC contributors.
Steele proved he hasn't become less partisan since losing his 2011 re-election bid to Wisconsin Republican Reince Priebus. He peppered his remarks with digs at the Democratic Party in an effort to energize the delegation before the convention began its second full day of business.
In response to the redistricting of Maryland's congressional districts, which Maryland Republicans fear could unseat longtime Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Steele accused the Maryland Democratic Party of wanting to sweep the state's congressional delegation.
"You know how Democrats are in our state: They're crazy. They're power hungry," the former Maryland lieutenant governor said. "I worry about any one party trying to take full control. How do you govern if there's only one side that you hear from?"
Steele also said Republicans still have to "deal with the crazies" in the House of Representatives, referring to congressional Democrats. The only time his confidence wavered was when he hesitated to say Republicans would take control of the Senate.
"We have some weak spots that we need to shore up for sure," he said, without mentioning any specific races.
The outspoken Steele became a polarizing figure within his own party during his time as national chairman. He also championed the new rules of the 2012 Republican nominating process, which forced early caucus and primary states to award their delegates proportionately in order to extend the race into the late spring and summer.
Steele now works as a political analyst for MSNBC, which he compared to stepping into a lion's den.
"They're nice people—generally speaking—but their ideology is whack," Steele said about his colleagues at the cable news network. "How do you put so much faith in government? How do you lose faith in people? How do you think the government is going to be the key force in entrepreneurism?"
But Steele joked that he has developed a method of dealing with his new job.
"Well, I take a little Valium. I take a shot of gin. And then the lights come on and we go at it," he said.
Maryland National Committeeman Louis Pope introduced Steele by poking fun at his new occupation, but several delegates approached Steele after the speech to thank him for bringing a conservative voice to the network.
"The joy of being an analyst is that I can tell it how I see it," Steele said, "which is probably why I'm no longer chairman."