Steele had doubts about ‘Drill, baby, drill’

The GOP's “drill, baby, drill” mantra that became an instant classic at their 2008 convention was almost left on the cutting room floor.

Ex-Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele chatted with Greenwire about coining the phrase, which was made famous by Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice presidential pick.

Steele said he was writing his speech at 2 a.m. on the day he was slated to deliver it, and wanted a catchy phrase. 

He came up with the drilling line that brought to mind "Burn, baby, burn!," a phrase associated with the Black Panthers in the late 1960s, but feared it might not be appropriate for a nationally televised speech, the story notes.

"I was worried about how it would be received in the convention hall," Steele told Greenwire. "It's a little colloquial — it's not a typical convention speech."

Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected RNC chairman in 2009. He’s now an MSNBC commentator.

He said he doesn’t mind that Palin took his line and ran with it. "I feel great that Sarah Palin is associated with something I said," he said.

Use of the “drill, baby, drill” mantra has faded, but the idea remains very much alive politically. Republicans are pushing for a major expansion of domestic oil-and-gas leasing and also want to allow rigs into Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

President Obama frequently touts his support for expanded oil-and-gas development, but his policies keep several regions off-limits that Republicans want opened, such as the East Coast, and Obama opposes bills to open ANWR.