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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Reince Priebus enters RNC Chair race

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake

Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus will seek the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee early next year, a blow to the reelection chances of current chairman Michael Steele.

"After careful consideration, prayer and encouragement from many, I have decided to run for RNC Chairman," Priebus said in an e-mail to supporters Monday morning. "The RNC must be at its best during this next election cycle. There is too much at risk for our Party and, more importantly, for our country. That is why I am running for Chairman."

Priebus had been weighing a bid for weeks but had made clear he would have preferred not to run against Steele.

The two men had enjoyed a close relationship; Priebus was the chairman of Steele's 2009 bid for the top spot at the RNC and a loyalist in the early days of Steele's tenure.

But, with Steele offering no hints about whether or not he will run for a second term -- his allies did send out a seven-page memo detailing his successes late last week -- and the field growing more and more crowded, Priebus' hand was forced.

In his e-mail, Priebus makes no direct allusions to Steele, but he casts the RNC as a troubled committee in need of someone to tighten the ship.

"We must capitalize on the 2012 election cycle in order to get our country back on the right track," he wrote. "However, this won't happen without significant changes at the RNC.

"I will keep expenses low. I will put in strong and serious controls. We will raise the necessary funds to make sure we are successful. We will work to regain the confidence of our donor base and I will personally call our major donors to ask them to rejoin our efforts at the RNC."

He becomes the third candidate in the race -- not including Steele. Already, former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis and former RNC co-chairwoman Ann Wagner are in the race.

Earlier Monday, a 527 named "Reince for RNC Chairman" was filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Such committees are general used to support a candidate's campaign.

The Hotline reported Sunday that Priebus had resigned as RNC general counsel. He becomes the second RNC official -- along with political director Gentry Collins -- to resign from the committee and eye a potential run against Steele.

Collins is one of several candidates considering joining the race. Others include Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy, former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan and former Bush Administration official Maria Cino. Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has said he might run, but only if Steele opts not to seek another term.

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake  | December 6, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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