The Republican Party leader, who has struggled in his early months in power, declared an end on Tuesday to the party’s search for answers to its problems and took aim at President Barack Obama.
"The honeymoon is over," said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. "We are going to challenge those policies that we believe are wrong, and we are going to do so without apology and without a second thought."
The Republicans’ problems are legion. They were soundly defeated in elections in 2006 and 2008 by the Democrats, who now control the White House and the U.S. Congress.
They have been engaged in a lengthy internal debate on how to emerge from the political wilderness. Conservatives stress the party must adhere to bedrock principles like low taxes and reduced spending, while moderates encourage the party to be more flexible and be more receptive to immigrants.
"The era of Republican navel-gazing is over," said Steele, who was elected in January to lead the party. "We have turned the corner on regret, recrimination, self-pity and self-doubt."
The Gallup polling organization said its data indicated Americans have turned heavily to the Democratic Party. It said of those surveyed, 53 percent identified themselves as Democrats and 39 percent as Republicans, a far cry from 2001 when the parties were evenly matched.
Steele, the party’s first African-American chairman, has been charged with building the party back, raising money and recruiting candidates.
But some fellow Republicans fault him for a tendency toward overexposure, saying that instead of appearing so often in television interviews he should be back at the office working the phones.
Speaking to an RNC luncheon, Steele said Republicans had engaged in hand-wringing over whether to take on the popular Obama. He said it was time to take on Obama’s policies, which he said would lead to "the most massive expansion of the old industrial age model of government that our country has ever seen."
"This popular politician is spending America into debt of such mammoth proportions that none of us can even begin to calculate it or really understand it," he said. "The numbers are so big that they seem impossible."
Republican strategist John Feehery said Steele "did what he had to do" but did not appear to break any new ground.
"The most important thing Steele has to remember is that it’s not about him. It’s about the party and it’s about making the party whole again and making it competitive. I don’t think Steele has to put the whole thing on his back."
Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan was sharply critical.
"While the chairman talks of moving forward, the very convention he’s addressing will not focus on coming up with new ideas to create jobs and setting right what the party got wrong over the last eight years, but instead will revolve around name calling and the petty politics of the past," he said.