Washington (CNN) – Hoping to remind Republican National Committee members of his close ties to controversy-prone Chairman Michael Steele, rivals of Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus are circulating photos of him and Steele palling around together in happier times.
Titled "Dream Team," the photo gallery is an attempt to depict Priebus as a loyal sidekick to Steele, whose tenure at the RNC has been sullied by gaffes and fundraising scandals. Priebus helped manage Steele's last campaign and served as the RNC's top lawyer until earlier this month.
Now running for chairman himself, Priebus is considered the leading contender in the race to replace Steele, who announced his re-election bid this week.
In one photo, Priebus is seen on a chartered plane with Steele during the 2009 chairman's race. "The good ol' days: Reince flies Chairman Steele around America in style, vouching for his leadership," the photo caption reads.
Another photo shows Priebus donning a "Steele" sticker on the day of Steele's election in January 2009. "The whip operation under the guidance of Reince," the caption reads. "Love the sticker!"
Priebus brushed off the photos, which were sent to CNN Wednesday by a Republican working for another candidate in the chairman's race, as "high school games."
"I don't dislike Michael and I never have," he told CNN. "I still consider him a friend. As a matter of fact I think he's friends with most people on the committee. I just think it's time to move on with new leadership."
Mississippi committeeman Henry Barbour, a Priebus ally, also spoke up to defend the candidate.
"People tend to shoot at the frontrunner, and he is the frontrunner," Barbour said. "I am sure some of Reince's opponents are shooting at him because they view him as the competition."
Priebus and Steele are battling four other declared candidates for the RNC's top job: former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner, Michigan committeeman Saul Anuzis, former RNC Political Director Gentry Collins and former Bush administration official Maria Cino.