Oxon Hill, Maryland (CNN) - The Republican National Committee tossed out controversy-plagued chairman Michael Steele Friday and tapped Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus to lead the debt-ridden party organization into the 2012 presidential election cycle.
Priebus remains largely unknown to Washington's political class but is now tasked with rebuilding the committee's damaged relationship with deep-pocketed GOP donors and raising hundreds of millions of dollars to compete with President Obama's re-election campaign.
The RNC also faces a more immediate challenge: retiring more than $21 million in debt leftover from the 2010 election cycle.
The soft-spoken Milwaukee attorney oversaw a banner election year for Republicans in Wisconsin and is a close friend and political adviser to Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson, but he is perhaps better known within the Beltway for his ties to the embattled Steele.
Priebus managed Steele's successful campaign in 2009 and went on to serve as RNC General Counsel, but he resigned the post in December to launch his own bid for the chairmanship after some arm-twisting by Steele critics eager to find a competent committee insider to replace their gaffe-prone leader.
"I am here to earn the trust and support of each and every one of you," Priebus said, addressing the RNC following his win. "I am going to start working right now as your chairman. We all recognize that there is a steep hill here ahead of us, and the only way we will be able to move forward is if we're all together."
Priebus said the RNC's top priority should be to ensure that the GOP's presidential nominee in 2012 "has the organization in place to beat Barack Obama."
His path to victory lasted four hours and was hardly the drama-free exercise that his supporters had hoped for at the outset of the RNC's Winter Meeting, held this week at the Gaylord National Hotel just outside Washington.
The voting process, in which the winner must collect a majority of 85 votes from the 168-member committee, lasted seven rounds.
Priebus led his opponents from the outset but hit a ceiling of roughly 50 votes after four series of votes at the Gaylord Hotel complex just outside.
That left the rest of the field - former Bush administration official Maria Cino, former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner and Michigan National Committeeman Saul Anuzis - rushing into private rooms to discuss possible deals with rivals.
Their backers on the committee, meanwhile, worked the room whipping up votes, but no candidate managed to build up a bloc of support to match Priebus.
Cino, whose bid was supported by House Speaker John Boehner, picked up a boost from the anybody-but-Priebus camp before the fifth round when Steele dropped out and urged his delegates to back her.
Steele earned a standing ovation after delivering a valedictory from the stage.
"I really thank you for the chairmanship of this party, for the two years that I have had and at this time I will step aside for others to lead," he said. "But in so doing I hope you all appreciate the legacy I leave, despite the noise. Despite the difficulties, we won."
Immediately after the endorsement, rumors shot throughout the hotel ballroom that Steele, who had little relationship with Cino prior to Friday's vote, had cut a deal with Boehner in exchange for his support.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel admitted that his team had spoken with Steele about endorsing Cino, but told CNN there was no "quid pro quo deal."
"Boehner has been pretty public about his endorsement, so I think it's fair to say it came up when our folks spoke with [Steele]," the House Speaker's spokesman said in an e-mail.
Sorry about all you idiots with your love affair with Obama. Steele was not the RNC's 'token black man'. Obama is the DNC's 'token black man' given the RACIST history of the Democrat party...the party that is still racist.
I am here to earn the trust and support of each and every one of you," Priebus said, addressing the RNC following his win. "I am going to start working right now as your chairman. We all recognize that there is a steep hill here ahead of us, and the only way we will be able to move forward is if we're all together."
Really! The party of hate all white men don't stand a chance in 2012.
Surprise, surprise! LOL. Are u idiots surprised that they are purging the RNC of "them colored people"? Now that the Teabigots have the repubs by the balls it looks like their first order of business is race. Shameful
He represents his party base since the Democratic Party is Anti-White male...
No blacks wanted in leadership positions in the GOP.
Do not be too confident in 2012 Dems and Libs. The majority of this country wants a direction change.
Why are they saying that they "bounced" Steele? I thought he withdrew from the vote/race?
Why does the GOP?CNN lie for no reason whatsoever?!
Oh yeah, the headlines.
I look forward to learning more about him. Didn't learn much about any of them during the Norquist Inquisition.
Ironic how the GOP proclaims themselves to be THE fiscally responsible party and yet, can't even keep the RNC from operating without a deficit.
Funding Control of the USA via the GOP doesn't matter any more. Thanks to GW Bush giving us John Roberts, the US Corporate Giants can mass advertise directly any lies they want to get their chosen puppets elected.
yet another irresponsible headline meant to stir reader reaction. steele was not bounced nor "tossed out"...he dropped out. quote: "I will step aside because I think the party is ready for something different," he said. "And now I exit, stage right." whether or not his self-demise was influenced by party leaders is irrelevant...a journalist reports the facts.
mr. hambly: any chance you will comment here on why you chose to use this language in your headline? if you ask me, you provide us yet another example of why journalistic standards continue to sink to new lows.
what a surprise... a white guy from wisconsin..... who would have thought
Hey Steele make sure you thank your President for extending Unemployment Benefits.
And remember: If your name starts between the letters A – M you line up to the left, M – Z to the right.
You mean Palin, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Dobbs and none of the other clowns didn't get it? I thought they were the leaders of the GOP? At least they think they are...
After reading all the comments so far, I am under the impression I am supposed to say something hateful and derogatory about this. Well, I'm thinking, I'm thinking. I don't have anything hateful or derogatory to say. Hmm. Good story. Good to know what's going on in the GOP. Looks like CNN is covering the story in a professional and positive fashion. Maybe this new chairman dude will help recharge the GOP. Happy Friday to all.
Agreed with everyone that says we weren't buying that the GOP wasn't anything but white men.
Tommy j- you were the target the target the repubatards had in mind.... Couldn't and still don't see the correlation between Steele-Obama, Palin-Clinton. Period, nuff said
I don't have anything hateful or derogatory to say. Hmm. Good story. Good to know what's going on in the GOP. Looks like CNN is covering the story in a professional and positive fashion. Maybe this new chairman dude will help recharge the GOP. Happy Friday to all.
Tommy J – your rhetoric isn't exacly whitewashed either. Libtards??? Messiah??? Provoking isn't good.
His name is bizarre, will be fun to see it in the press more often... I'd imagine he's as bad as any other Republican leader, as far as policy goes, so I really don't care otherwise.
I wonder how Michael Steele feel about how his belowed party is treating him now. He was the token, looked on with contempt black people and is now paying the price – he needs to pray!!!!!
The only reason Steele was put in that position was to try to pull in black voters for the republican party, after he couldn't do that they bounced his butt!The old saying see a fool use a fool and they sure used him.
LOL the GOP wouldn't even choose a white WOMAN they had to go with a man. And anybody that says the Steele pick wasn't a racial one has been hiding in a cave the past 50 years. Face it No Obama No Steele. It could have been worst though..they could have picked West whats his name from Florida the new congressman that claims to have a higher security clearence than Obama does. In fact that guy is so far to the right they might have even KEPT him!!
Is his name pronounced Rain-ce Pry-e-bus , i.e. Racey Pryebus?
Yes,Steele left quite a legecy, over $21 million in debt.
Liberal definition of Diversity = people who are a different color than you...
Conservative definition of Diversity = people who have different ideas and beliefs than you