So reports Matt Lewis, per Steele’s conference call this afternoon with bloggers. And that’s not the money part:

Steele also warned that we shouldn’t “soft-pedal” our attacks on Barack Obama, “just because the President of the United States happens to be a Black man.” This, of course, presents the argument that Steele — an African-American — could be a more effective critic of Obama than could his white Republican colleagues.

He added that “the Obama campaign played the race card beautifully.”

David Harsanyi says he was more explicit than that:

The most interesting aspect of the call focused on the perceived ability of Steele to take on Barack Obama more ferociously and avoid the tedious race-card ploy used by some Democrats. When asked if he would be able to criticize Obama more freely, Steele said “I think because I’m an American I will be to do it” and that “bad policies don’t have color, they’re just bad policies.” Good answers.

Having him up top could reduce the Absolute Moral Authority deficit superficially, but will it really “avoid the tedious race-card ploy”? Remember, this is a guy whom the nutroots have been known to photoshop as Sambo for the crime of being black while conservative. If anything, I suspect, electing him will feed racial politics by leading the left to frame The One as “authentically black” vis-a-vis the Republican “house slave” or whatever progressive witticism they’ve coined for him this month. Which isn’t a reason to vote against Steele, needless to say: On the contrary, maybe that’s the point — to bait them and let them show off how “enlightened” they really are. They won’t be able to resist.

Even so, an unnamed Republican source says don’t get your hopes up:

But one influential Republican believes that RNC members are going to insist that the next chair come from the RNC.

“As to the new chair, don’t pay any attention to people who aren’t on the RNC,” he told me. “This is not a good thing, but the current RNC believes only one of their own should be chair. Maybe a dozen have a clue politically — and that’s being very kind. None (as chairman) could be an ideas leader or command the substantive respect of Republican senators or representatives.”

If that’s true, if Steele’s doomed to lose to some RNC crony, it’s doubly unfortunate insofar as not only will the base be disappointed, but it’ll hand the Democrats an easy talking point about the prospects for black politicians within the GOP as compared to their own party. Not just for that reason but partly for that reason, I hope he pulls it out.