WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will announce Thursday that a dozen Republican National Committee members are whipping votes on his behalf to be the next leader of the national party, Steele political advisors tell CNN.
Wisconsin Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus will unveil Steele's whip operation in a memo to supporters - though in a copy of the document provided to CNN, he stops short of naming other RNC members who have vowed to vote for the former lieutenant governor when the national party meets at the end of the month.
The next national Republican chair will be chosen by 168 men and women from across the country – the first time these GOP activists have wielded such power since President Bush entered the White House.
Steele is one of half a dozen candidates looking to lead the GOP. A CNN tally of public supports shows that 22 RNC members are publicly backing the national party's current chair, Mike Duncan; Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis has 13 public commitments; South Carolina Republican Party Chair Katon Dawon, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Steele all have 12 announced endorsements. Former Tennessee Republican Party Chair Chip Saltsman has none.
A Steele political advisor tells CNN that the former lieutenant governor has "31 hard commitments" from RNC members. It is difficult to judge true support for any one of these candidates because it is a secret ballot, but political observers view Steele as a serious contender for the top spot.
Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's whip operation includes:
* Sharon Giese, National Committeewoman, Arizona Republican Party
* Shawn Steel, National Committeeman, California Republican Party
* John Frey, National Committeeman, Connecticut Republican State Central Committee
* Bob Kabel, Chairman, District of Columbia Republican Committee
* Betsy Werronen, National Committeewoman, District of Columbia Republican Committee
* Jim Greer, Chairman, Republican Party of Florida
* Paul Senft, National Committeeman, Republican Party of Florida
* Norm Semanko, Chairman, Idaho Republican State Central Committee
* Patrick Brady, National Committeeman, Illinois Republican Party
* Joyce Terhes, National Committeewoman, Republican State Central Committee of Maryland
* Holly Hughes, National Committeewoman, Michigan Republican State Committee
* Reince Preibus, Chairman, Wisconsin Republican Party