Washington (CNN) - Michael Steele broke a weeks-long silence Monday night and announced that he will seek a second term as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Steele revealed his intentions in a lengthy private conference call with RNC members, several of whom relayed the news to CNN.
Speaking for nearly 40 minutes, Steele touted Republican gains at the ballot box in November and said the RNC deserves a share of the credit. Under his watch, he said, the committee was re-shaped to empower grassroots activists and state party organizations in places where the GOP has traditionally not been competitive.
"While we began this cycle bowed, we did not break," Steele said on the call. "We ended better and stronger."
Without getting into specifics, Steele accepted responsibility for some of his actions that may have reflected poorly on the committee. He said he would focus on "implementing a new accounting and reporting system" for party finances.
"Yeah, I have stumbled along the way, but I have always accounted to you for shortcomings," he told RNC members on the call. "I have made no excuses, I have told no lies, and I have no agenda. I have tried to be honest, sometimes to a bloody fault."
He also fired back at critics who have accused him of abandoning big GOP donors who traditionally donated to the RNC but looked elsewhere in 2010. He said those critics are "in denial."
"People have been talking a lot of smack about major donors, but you cannot take away from the fact that you and we raised $179 million," he boasted, noting that the figure is higher than what the Democratic National Committee raised in 2006 when their party was out of power.
The controversial chairman remained unusually silent in recent weeks and kept even his closest allies on the committee guessing about his future. Several media outlets reported that Steele was all but certain to decline a second bid, making his decision Monday all the more surprising.
Just hours before the conference call, even some of his top allies on the committee had no clue about Steele's thinking.
"I have no idea what he's going to do," one Steele confidante on the committee told CNN late Monday afternoon. "I hope he does run."
That committee member called back an hour later to say that Steele was indeed running, and that Steele had emailed re-election talking points to his allies on the committee.
Steele joins the already crowded race as a frontrunner with just one month to go until the chairmanship election, scheduled to take place at the RNC Winter Meeting in mid-January. Insiders say Steele has the backing of at least 30 members of the committee, a larger bloc of support than any other candidate in the race.
Committee members of all stripes, though, believe the race remains a wide open affair.
Steele must ultimately count on the support of at least 85 of the committee's 168 members to win re-election, which could be a difficult proposition after a rocky two-year term marred by a string of damaging verbal gaffes and questions about his ability to raise money from big GOP donors.
Steele's opponents on the committee have started to line up behind at least five declared challengers: Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, formerly one of Steele's closest advisers; Michigan National Committeeman Saul Anuzis; former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner; former Bush administration official Maria Cino; and former RNC Political Director Gentry Collins, who formally declared his candidacy earlier in the day.
Former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan is also eyeing a bid.
Steele's opponents, not surprisingly, say the chairman has no chance of winning again. "Dead man walking," quipped one GOP strategist working for a Steele rival.
Michigan committeewoman Holly Hughes, a close ally of Steele's, disputed that characterization.
"I don't know exactly what the numbers are, but I do know that he has more votes lined up than any other candidate exponentially," Hughes told CNN. "I think they would all like to be in the position that he is in now. Chairman Steele is ahead with the relationships that he has built up."
With his rivals dividing the remaining votes, the race is likely to come down to which candidate can emerge as the strongest alternative to Steele.
"There will be no consensus for a while," one of Steele's opponents in the race told CNN. "But everyone will start doing a more critical analysis. The good news for most of us is the focus will remain on Steele."
Steele's decision appears to have sidelined Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who had been exploring a bid and making calls to committee members as recently as Monday morning. But Coleman had said he will not run if Steele entered the race, a position he re-affirmed to CNN.
"Senator Coleman has been consistent that he has no intention of running against Chairman Steele," a spokeswoman for Coleman emailed.
He can expect complete support. But that's only from Democrats.
Too funny !! Now, let's see if he is elected.
Yeah...just cause you WANT to stay doesnt mean the RNC will have you Mike...you've done your job promoting "diversity" in the GOP now they are done with you and will send you down the road just like they plan to do with Obama...
A beautiful line from the distinguished First Lady, Mrs. Ronald Reagan: Just Say No.
Now, let's see if he gets it a second time. I'm betting not.
What if Michael Steele made an announcement ... and nobody cared?!
Gee, what a surprise. Should be interesting. I wonder just how impressed the Republicans are with his performance. Of course, they did win so something he planned must have worked.
A little too self-serving and this may hurt hims chances. We will see what Fox celebrities say.
Steele is toast (rust?). The GOP is back in power and they just don't need him any more. They'll replace him with someone more amenable to the TP'ers. Watch for the tell-all book, coming next summer!
"The Republican Party, which is often steeped in discipline and order among the ranks of top leaders, has become a cauldron of controversy."
–Jeff Zelezny, New York Times
The understatment of the year.
Enjoy your ascendnecy while at lasts, hostage-takers. Two and through.
Once again this clown comes back to wreck fund raising that should be simple in this political environment. Heck, the RNC will start 2011 with about $25mil in debt. I guess we will need to count on the Republicans Governors Association to pick up the slack. I urge everyone to read the resignation letter of Gentry Collins from the RNC!!! It is 4 pages of total clarity of this guy at the wheel.
Amazing, the arrogance of Steele to think he can win after all the mistakes he's made. Although nothing surprises me anymore about the Republican Party!
Being nearly as big a joke as Palin, I hope this clown wins.
Bad move.......this is going to make it harder for the GOP to succeed in the years ahead. Mr. Steele has just done for the Democratic Party what they could not do themselves in the last election!
As a resident of Maryland, I can tell you first-hand that as Lt. Governor, Michael Steele was a useless, arrogant, nitwit. He proved to be no different as RNC chair. However, I'm looking forward to watching him battle it out with a larger group of useless, arrogant, nitwits!
Mr Steele has the best record of any RNC chair in recent memory and is still unwanted by his own party. Can anyone guess why?
Go ahead and make another complete fool of yourself! The GOP will have fun eating you up and spitting you out. You are worthless to them and you are worthless period. Maybe the GOP will let you sweep out the caboos! LOL
What big annoucement is being made? That all of the Republican politicians are realizing that the Democrats are not giving up without a fight anymore that America is tired of the back and forth crap that goes on in Washington D.C. relating to the American citizen that everytime a good thing comes along that benefits all American's it can't be allowed because it broke some damned religious rule or hurt someone's feelings.
Mr. Steele should save what dignity he has left and resign. The republican party gave him that position in a knee jerk response to the election of a black president, President Obama. The republicans do not like, want, or respect Mr. Steele. They have never given him the respect or authority commensurate with his title. The bottom line is they used him for his skin tone and now that they have won the mid-term elections (no thanks to Mr. Steele) they don't have much use for him. He thinks he is part of the team but the not so funny joke is on him. He will be gone with the wind!
Steele should get it through his thick skull that he is just the token black chairman for the GOP. Back off, and let your white bsse take the reigns again.
Stumbles??? If the Man of Steele had been able to control Palin and the Tea Party, the Republicans would have substantial control over BOTH the House and Senate.
As it is, the GOP is still an endangered species as the Tea Party has them in their cross-hairs.
Michael Steele may be the answer to the future trivia question, "Who was the last chairman of the RNC?"
Steele will not be re-elected as GOP chair, he was used by the right wing nut cases to try to say, "Look at us we are not racists," not true. He was window dressing for the republican right wing nut cases. They supported all those racist posters displayed by the tea party, remember those racist screams at Congressman James Clyburn, Steels is a pathetic puppet for the republicans he needs to tell them to go to hell, literally.
What's the big announcement, if you had been paying attention you would would have known Steele was going to run for another term. If the RNC has their way, they would throw Steele under the bus.