Republicans emboldened by a weak U.S. jobs report pressed their attack against the ruling Democrats on Friday, hoping to translate Americans' unhappiness with the economy into votes on November 2.
Leading the charge was Michael Steele, the controversial chairman of the Republican National Committee, who appears to have weathered the storm over a series of gaffes and distractions that raised doubts about his tenure.
In a speech on the final day of the party's summer meeting, Steele accused President Barack Obama's Democrats of pushing through a big government, tax and spending binge agenda that has not healed our ailing economy.
The American people need work. The American people want work. But instead what they have gotten are out-of-touch politicians who are stripping away their freedoms, said Steele.
In Washington, a U.S. Labor Department report that said the jobless rate in July remained at 9.5 percent provided fodder for Republicans who hope to oust Democrats from control of the U.S. House of Representatives and challenge them in the Senate in the November 2 elections.
Americans will elect all 435 members of the House and 37 members of the 100-member Senate in the midterm elections.
While Obama sees an $862 billion stimulus plan and overhauls of the U.S. healthcare industry and financial regulations as necessary to rebuild the economy, Republicans view these policies as unnecessary government interventions into private markets.
Obama says Republicans would return the United States to the same policies that put the country deeply into debt and mired in recession and have not come up with a single, solitary idea that is any different from the policies of George W. Bush.
RUNNING AGAINST PELOSI
Steele wore a red Fire Pelosi cap, referring to the top Democrat in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He announced plans for a six-week Fire Nancy Pelosi bus tour beginning in September aimed at rallying Republicans.
Party leaders voted to hold their 2012 presidential nominating convention in the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg region of Florida, a state that will be important in determining the next president.
And they narrowly approved a schedule for 2012 Republican presidential primary contests that will keep Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada as the first voting states. They cannot hold their primaries before February 1.
Steele, talking to reporters after the meeting, defended his stewardship of the Republican Party. He had sought to reassure party members about his leadership in private meetings this week.
Look, you know, with anything there's disagreements and different opinions on issues. I think the members have made it very clear that our focus, and I agree, should be on November 2, Steele said. All the noise of mid-summer will fade away into victory on November 2.
Under Steele, the party has recently had some problems raising money but committee members have rallied around him with less than 90 days to go until the election and Republicans energized to vote.
Clearly people are disappointed and frustrated over some of the gaffes and the mistakes and the distractions that take place for a variety of different reasons, but at the same time everybody wants to focus on the elections, said a Republican Party committee member who asked to remain unidentified.
The party's chief of staff, Mike Leavitt, told the committee's general session on Friday that fund-raising is running just below the level of the Democratic National Committee, which benefits from Democrats controlling the White House, the House and the Senate.
Through June, the Republicans had raised $49 million compared to nearly $54 million by the Democrats, and each have about $10 million cash on hand, Leavitt said.
Republicans need to pick up 39 seats in the House to take control from the Democrats and political experts say a Republican takeover is possible. In the Senate, Democrats have a 59-41 advantage and most experts expect the Democrats to lose seats but maintain control.
(Editing by David Alexander and Vicki Allen)