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Despite Steele’s rough start, many in GOP optimistic

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Mr. Dean presided over the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress and, last November, the White House. His 50-state strategy – in which Democrats tried to be competitive in even the most conservative states – forced a more expansive view of the electoral map, with some success.

Now, Steele has turned his focus to the very same task: how to organize the party, raise money, and recruit candidates for a 2010 election cycle that history shows should give the Republicans some advantages. Historically, the president's party loses seats in the first midterm election. By November 2010, Mr. Obama is likely to "own" the struggling economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the eyes of voters, and Democrats could face some backlash at the polls.

Steele has cut back on interviews and national media appearances, and set about getting his office in order. Late last week, Steele announced the hiring of Rhode Island lawyer Ken McKay as chief of staff at the Republican National Committee. The RNC was also expected to name Trevor Francis, a managing director at the PR giant Burson-Marsteller, as communications director.

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