Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele stopped Thursday in northern Colorado to drum up support for the GOP and promote party unity, but failed to mention the Republican congressional candidate in the district.

That candidate, state Rep. Cory Gardner, has been critical of Steele in the past and didn’t attend the rally, which was held in the strip mall center where his campaign headquarters are located. His campaign said he missed the event because of a scheduling conflict.

Steele said Thursday that Republicans need to unify behind their nominees in the November election and mentioned several other Colorado candidates during the stop on his national “Fire Pelosi” bus tour.

“As you’ve already seen in places like Delaware and elsewhere, when you try to create fissures and fractures, it doesn’t help the overall goal of winning, and we need to be in the frame of mind of winning,” he said.

In Delaware, Republican leaders attacked tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell, who went on to win the party’s nomination in the Senate race.

Steele told several dozen supporters that they should be focused on winning.

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“It’s not personal anymore, about you know, who is standing next to whom, and who finished first or last in the primary, and who won and who lost in the primary,” Steele said.

RNC spokesman Bill Riggs reiterated Steele’s support for Gardner after the speech. Gardner’s campaign said he missed the rally because he had a long-standing commitment to speak to the editorial board at the Longmont Times-Call newspaper.

Gardner is challenging incumbent Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey.

Gardner’s campaign also wouldn’t answer questions about what the candidate currently thinks of his party chairman. A spokeswoman for Gardner, Rachel Boxer, directed a reporter to Gardner’s April comments to a conservative voter who asked how the party could get rid of Steele. At the time, Gardner replied, “You know, I think it’s happening.”

Boxer said in an e-mail Wednesday, “We don’t have anything to add to what is already out there.”

Steele was also scheduled to visit Denver’s southern suburbs Thursday afternoon for an appearance with Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes. He planned to remain in Colorado until Friday, when he will be in Pueblo to support candidates there, including Scott Tipton, who is challenging Democrat John Salazar in the 3rd Congressional District.