(CNN) - RNC Chairman Michael Steele announced last night he would seek re-election, surprising some detractors and others from inside the party who were hinting he would be done at the end of the year.
Instead, Steele will fight on – after an onslaught of jabs from the left and right media, and new media in general, during his tenure at the helm of the party.
"Yeah, I have stumbled along the way, but I have always accounted to you for shortcomings," Steele told RNC members during a call last night. "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."
While Steele may win points for his honesty, it was his regular media appearances, which took on a 'what will he say this time' quality, that truly ingratiated him into the news world. His presence as party leader is also what made some in the GOP squirm as Steele's various 'stumbles' became national media stories.
It started in only his third month in March 2009, when he took some shots at radio titan Rush Limbaugh – an almost unthinkable activity by a GOP head. During a CNN interview, he said Limbaugh's rhetoric was "ugly" and "incendiary," and the pushback he received from Limbaugh forced him to walk back the statement only a few days later.
In March of this year, Steele took heat from a story broken by the right-leaning website The Daily Caller, about excessive spending by the party – most notably, an RNC trip to a "bondage-themed nightclub." This led to relentless 'coverage' of Steele by "The Daily Show," making fun of the experience and the leader.
There were smaller controversies too, like the launch of GOP.com – which led to chuckles from the blogging world about everything from an animated Steele guiding readers to his personal blog, titled (briefly) "What Up?"
But likely the seminal moment of the Steele Era was his declaration in July that Afghanistan was "a war of Obama's choosing" and that "this is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in." It was caught an amateur video recording at a small fundraiser in Connecticut – and it set off a national firestorm. Sen. John McCain ripped Steele, Rep. Darrell Issa said he was "not my leader" and prominent conservative pundits Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol called for his resignation. Others defended Steele – in a way, it came down to a "professional right" versus new GOP situation.
And with the Tea Party wave and considerable outside help, Steele was the RNC's leader when it scored major pick-ups in the House and Senate, flipping the House red and ushering in an entirely new set of first-time members of Congress.
He survived the extreme media scrutiny and inter-party rumblings. But gaining re-election in January will be a challenge. He will have at least five challengers, including one of his former advisers Reince Priebus and a former competitor for the job Saul Anuzis. Former RNC Political Director Gentry Collins is also running.
But while Steele has his occasional gaffe, his party did have a good year. And no one can deny the media attention he attracts. It's now up to the GOP to decide whether Steele is worth another go.