(CNN) – James Bopp, a longtime member of the Republican National Committee, whom Chairman Michael Steele last week called an "idiot," has thrown his support behind Reince Priebus in the race for the RNC's top post.
"I view our goal to elect a Chairman of the RNC who has the vision and skill set to maximize the effect of the RNC on the 2012 elections. A corollary goal is the defeat of Michael Steele, as he has demonstrated that he is not capable of accomplishing this goal," wrote the outspoken Bopp in a letter to committee members Wednesday.
The letter comes a week after Steele called Bopp an "idiot" in an interview with WBAL radio in response to charges from Bopp that Steele was "playing the race card" in his re-election bid. The influential committee member from Indiana was bothered by Steele's remarks during a conference call with RNC members to announce his bid for a second term, during which Steele said that his re-election would "speak volumes about our willingness to truly be the party of Lincoln."
Priebus, the Wisconsin GOP chairman, had been one of Steele's top lieutenants on the committee until recent weeks, when some RNC members disgruntled with Steele's leadership began approaching him about seeking the job. Priebus resigned his post as RNC General Counsel earlier this month.
In his letter to committee members Wednesday, Bopp made little mention of Steele, beyond expressing his willingness to ultimately support any candidate running against the current chairman should Priebus falter in early-round balloting.
"I have high regard for the other five candidates running against Steele and would have no problem supporting them, if supporting any of them proved to be the right thing to do to achieve our goals," wrote Bopp.
Bopp's endorsement is the latest signal Priebus is among the de facto frontrunners in the chairmanship race, having won support from the influential former New Jersey committeeman David Norcross and veteran Iowa committeeman Steve Scheffler last week.
Priebus is also thought to have the tacit support of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former RNC chairman, because Barbour's nephew and political adviser, Mississippi committeeman Henry Barbour, is supporting the Wisconsinite.
Meanwhile, Susan B. Anthony List, a sponsor of an upcoming RNC chairman debate, is vowing to vet all the candidates when it comes to the issue of abortion.
"It is critical that the next RNC chairman not only be pro-life, but be prepared to use his or her position to advance pro-life values," said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser Tuesday. "We look forward to vetting candidates on their stances on Life and how they would advance these causes as RNC Chairman."
The group also announced a grassroots campaign to reach out to half a milliion socially conservative activists to encourage them to lobby RNC voting members to elect a pro-life chairman.
- CNN's Alexander Mooney and Peter Hamby contributed to this report
Full letter from Bopp:
To members of the Republican National Committee:
This letter is to announce my endorsement of Reince Priebus for Chairman of the RNC.
I view our goal to elect a Chairman of the RNC who has the vision and skill set to maximize the effect of the RNC on the 2012 elections. A corollary goal is the defeat of Michael Steele, as he has demonstrated that he is not capable of accomplishing this goal.
As to vision, it has two parts in my view. First is how one understands the proper role of the RNC within the current political environment. Years ago, we elected Politicians as our "Leaders," who told the People what government policies they should support and what Politicians they should elect. The Party was a support group for the Politicians. This paradigm has been destroyed. The most prominent manifestation of this is the tea party movement, but it is universal, cutting across all ideological lines. Now, it is the People who are in charge, who are the leaders. Politicians are elected to do a job that the People need done and the Party is to be the People's agent, holding Politicians accountable for carrying out the will of the People.
The second part is that what we do as a Party and our Politicians do in office must be based on the core Republican principles contained in our Party Platform. When we deviate for this, as in 2006 and 2008, we suffer defeat; when we embrace them, as in 2010, we achieve victory.
By this measure, I have found Reince, based on his actions as Wisc. Chairman, on his efforts as General Counsel, and on my in depth discussions with him, to have the best grasp of both parts of this vision. He is willing to implement this vision as RNC Chairman. I think he understands that we need more active RNC member participation and that members need to be empowered to hold the leadership accountable.
As to skill set, first Reince has the personal characteristics, analytical mind and communication abilities to be an effective Chairman. Second, he has the demonstrated management, administrative and fundraising ability. I have major conservative clients in Wisconsin and they are unanimous in verifying this. Third, he has successfully employed in Wisconsin and intends to implement in the RNC a leadership team approach, which I believe is vital for any Chairman's success. This means bring together a top notched group of RNC members and professionals together to guide the RNC's activities.
Finally, are there any disqualifiers? I have already publicly spoken of this and I invite you consider my findings, after asking the hard questions and seeking verifications where appropriate.
I particularly wanted to mention that the concern about his involvement in his law firm's effort to profit on stimulus funds is not well founded. I have talked to the people at the law firm and have found that his name was listed as involved in this project without his knowledge or consent and that a review of his billing records discloses that he did not work on this project.
As a result, I believe that Reince Priebus is the best choice for Chairman. It was a close decision, particularly between Saul and Reince, since I think Ann has an insurmountable difficulty reaching a majority of the votes, because of our unfair gender requirement for Co-Chairman.
Obviously, my conclusion is also based on the information I have available now and the situation as it exists today. I have high regard for the other five candidates running against Steele and would have no problem supporting them, if supporting any of them proved to be the right thing to do to achieve our goals.
I urge you to support Reince Priebus for RNC Chairman.
James Bopp, Jr.
NCM – Indiana
Republican National Committee