Jan 14, 2011

 
 
 

The Republican National Committee today will select a new chairman to shepherd the party as it tries to win back the White House and expand its ranks in Congress and among governors.Reince Priebus, the Wisconsin GOP chairman, has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Michael Steele, whose tenure has been marked by high spending, financial debt and verbal gaffes.

The RNC will play a crucial role in the 2012 presidential election, using its resources to help get out the vote and to complement the campaign of the party's standard bearer against President Obama.

Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, made a surprise decision to run for a second term. While acknowledging his mistakes, Steele emphasized at a recent debate that "we won" in November and pointed to the GOP takeover of the House, victories in 10 governorships including key states such as Ohio, and wins in six Senate seats.

Even though the party took in more than $80 million before the November elections, it had to take out a $15 million loan. A debt payment of $5 million is due next month, according to the Associated Press.

A high-profile chairman who traveled a lot and made frequent TV appearances, Steele was criticized for some of his remarks, such as saying Afghanistan was a "war of Obama's choosing."Going into Friday's election, whip counts by National Journal's Hotline, The Washington Post and Politico showed Priebus had the broadest support of the committee's 168 members. On Thursday, Priebus picked up the endorsement of former White House chief of staff John Sununu, who will soon retire as New Hampshire GOP chairman.

Priebus, the RNC's former general counsel, played up his fundraising prowess and ballot box success in usually blue Wisconsin, which voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election and Democrat John Kerry in 2004.

In 2010, Republicans won majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature and also won the governor's race. The GOP now has 5-3 advantage in the state's congressional delegation.

Maria Cino, a former Bush administration official who had the support of House Speaker John Boehner; Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan GOP chairman; and Ann Wagner, a former RNC co-chairwoman, are also running for the job.

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