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Posted at 10:01 AM ET, 12/27/2010

Onetime Michael Steele ally backs challenger for RNC chairman

By Felicia Sonmez

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has lost the support of yet another key supporter, the latest sign that the beleaguered chairman faces an uphill climb in his bid for a second term.

California Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel announced Sunday night that he is backing Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus for RNC chairman.

Priebus currently sits atop the first tier of contenders in the race, as The Fix outlined this morning. He has secured the most public commitments so far from among the committee's 168 voting members and oversaw Badger State Republicans' impressive wins in this year's gubernatorial, Senate and House races.

In a letter announcing his support for Priebus, Steel acknowledged that he had been a longtime Steele supporter, contending that while the embattled chairman "helped brighten Republican prospects immediately after Obama's victory, it is now clear that new leadership is required at the RNC."

"My key interest is to do what is best for the Party," Steel wrote, adding that Priebus "demonstrates his principles from the candidates he recruits and his heart. He's always on message. He understands how to win, and his work as Chairman in Wisconsin is a great example."

Priebus also announced the support of three other committee members Sunday night: Oklahoma National Committeeman James Dunn, Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell and Nebraska National Committeeman Pete Ricketts.

The new slate of endorsements brings the number of Priebus' supporters to more than 20, putting him on his way toward the 85 votes needed in order to lock up the race next month.

Other contenders in the race include former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, former Ambassador to Luxembourg Ann Wagner, former RNC official Maria Cino and former RNC Political DIrector Gentry Collins.

By Felicia Sonmez  | December 27, 2010; 10:01 AM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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