Editor's note: Ed Rollins, who was political director for President Reagan, is a Republican strategist who was national chairman of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign.
Ed Rollins says the Republican Party has lost its relevance amid very low favorable ratings from voters.
(CNN) -- The cold winds of March have obviously affected the intelligence and thought processes of people who need to get their thinking straight.
The idiotic debate raging in Washington this week around Michael Steele, the newly elected chairman of the nearly defunct Republican Party, and Rush Limbaugh, a conservative icon for the past 35 years, is beyond foolish.
The battle to be the "de facto leader" of this party is akin to the question of who wants to steer the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. Who represents the party or its values is not relevant when only 26 percent of voters have a positive impression of the party at all and only 7 percent very positive, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey.
The Democratic Party is the reverse, with 49 percent positive. When 60 percent of the country approves of the job President Obama is doing, every Republican leader is going backward.
Republicans are not relevant. We just lost two back-to-back elections (2006 and 2008), and obviously, what we are selling, the voters aren't buying. In the midst of the most severe economic crisis in my lifetime, we have a president who is taking the country on a dramatic sea change. This is what he said he would do and he is doing it. And where are Republicans? Right now we don't have the alternative ideas, a message or, more important, the messenger.
Rush Limbaugh is not the Republican Party. If he wanted to get elected to office, he probably could have won or maybe even have gotten the party chairman job.
But why would he want that job when he makes hundreds of millions of dollars entertaining his daily listeners? Rush is one of the most important conservative voices in the country. He has the largest talk radio audience in the country (15 million weekly listeners) and has been influential in national debate for years. He will continue to be a voice a lot of people will listen to. The great thing about talk radio and cable television is you can listen or watch or turn it off if you don't like it.
Steele is a decent man who was an extremely effective advocate on Fox News. He was elected Republican national chairman by a majority of the 167 members representing the various state parties.
He was elected to run the national party, raise money, rebuild the political operation and travel across the country making speeches to state parties. iReport.com: If Obama "can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen"
He has stumbled out of the starting gate and obviously has not made the most favorable first impression. But he has two years in his term. He will be measured ultimately on how his party does in the 2010 elections, even though his organization does not run congressional races, U.S. Senate races or state governor races. He is not a member of Congress, a senator or a governor.
People who govern are the ones who will make the party relevant again, or not. All have to be long-term thinkers in addition to doing their daily tasks.
For the foreseeable future, the Republican Party is in the position of being the minority party. Until it nominates a candidate who can attract new voters and expand the base vote of the party, it will stay there. iReport.com: Limbaugh's challenge to Obama "no contest"
We are a party that needs ideas, new leaders and an inroad into young people and their thinking. That doesn't mean we have to abandon our old ideas or quit fighting the president's policies when we don't believe in them. But we have a lot of work to do.
Politics is a game of addition. We need to get serious and quit the silly debate about who's the more important voice. The country only has two real political parties. We have tons of problems and obviously more than one way to solve them. It's up to Republicans to become a vital party again. That means everybody's got a job to do.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Rollins.
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