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.
How ironic. The party that wants to save us from overspending is debt ridden
Michael Steele was the token and he looked down on minorities. I wonder how he feels about his treatment by the RNC. He needs Prayer!!!
knew my man had it in the bag, when he answered the particularly difficult RNC debate question, "How many guns do you own?" with the answer "Six" – Reince Priebus representing the average American (well, not really)
Not everything is about race. If the first thing you thought of was "He's white", that means you judge based on race.
He's not gay, he's not black, he's not latin, he's not a woman, but he's not a tax cheat nor not totally incompetent either so exactly what's wrong with him? After Howard Dean, I'm surprised that you libs would think ya'll have any room to talk!
This Palin thing you worship and protect TommyJ is all part of the big picture of how sheep follow.........Take your blindfolds off and it will all start making sense.
You and the rest of your herd really need to start checking facts and stop ignoring that yours and my job will be gone forever if you continue to vote against our best interests and on idiology and corporation..
And Gods Earth is not green ....from space and in science it is known as the blue planet .. check yourself...HAHAHa
The RNC is in Debt – What did they let us Democrats in to spend it! Republicans balance budgets by cutting program that help the American worker in favor of finding every overseas hotspot in the world to put our soldiers in harms way-remember those weapons of Mass Destruction! Republicans know that wars don't cost the country money but helping working class Americans does. I've had it with them.
I find it interesting that the GOP keeps recriuting it's leadership from the least-populated (read: overwhelmingly white) areas of our country like Wisconsin, Montana, Alaska...
Well....Is that any surprize. African American Steel didn't bode well with GOP from the start. His election to chair was a desperate efforts to get the black vote in 2008. Well..the mouth can lie, but the toung wont. There is no place for blacks in GOP...isn't that obvious? It's a white extremist's club !
You know the GWP was going to back someone who looks more like them. He won the mid terms for them so now they just discard him. Hope he switches parties
Reince Preibus...what kind of name is that? What is a Rience? It sounds like a piece of equipment. "I put the Rience in the car, but forgot the air compressor" Yet another pretentious GOP leader.
Whew! Now Republicans are safe to send money to a white man again. What a breath of fresh air. Karl Rove can go back to his real job of demonizing Obama instead of being a bill collector from those paranoid patriot militias aka Tea Party America.
Here you go again; racist republican fired their black boss. Shame on you Steel when you were talking against our President Barak Obama. Republican like neither Black nor Hispanic, they are simply a white boys club. Black and Hispanic open your eyes to see what republican are doing to you. Republicans used to trade slaves, and now they block the dream act to enslave Hispanic, and they are against immigration reforms because they wanted the illegal Hispanic immigrant to serve them with low wage (21st century slavery).
Hmmmmmm, interesting. I guess the white is great saying will never die.
The fiscal responsible part in debt for the tune of 21M...and they left the country in debt of trillions.
How did that happen...who are they blaming?
Was the money spent on wardrobe for Pallin?
Be careful who you vote for in 2012
Bush Sr leaves with this countries unemployment rising and a NAFTA plan that almost immediately sent our manufacturing jobs overseas. Democrats return prosperity over 8 years and leave office with a $268 billion dollar surplus and 4.1 percent unemployment. 8 years of republican rule leave with starting 2 endless wars started on fear and fabricated lies and a $800 billion dollar deficit and 100,000 lost jobs every month. Democrats return and in just 2 years, the stock market regains above 11,000 average and unemployment slowly dropping. Republicans now have millions of dept within their own party. This is just a recap of the facts. Thats all.
I don't see this as racist. I see this as practical... putting someone in the office who knows what they are doing... AFTER the failure of the bungling idiot they put in the office mostly because of his skin color... which WAS racial pandering.
they asked this guy what his favorite book of all time; and he said "Reagan Diaries"
Not the Great Gatsby or Lolita? "Nancy and I had lobster for dinner after I took a 3 hour nap"
I am a repbulican, and when I saw the headline for this I said "Who the $@#% is this guy?" He comes across as diminutive and a weasel. This is kind of crap is why I stopped donating to the RNC.
The picture of this guy with his finger in the air before a podium (as I saw on CNN's home page) had me thinking "you draw a short mustache on this guy and put a swastika behind him, and you could swear you're looking at a different politician, in a different time and a different country.
Too many pompous self-serving stuffed shirts. This is why nothing ever gets done and why the Bankers can continue to run the country. They have no opposition.
Maybe if republicans had the wealth the media claims we have, we would not be in debt. The truth is the richest Americans are democrats. I don't fault anyone for their wealth, but the hypocrits on the left act as if they hate the rich, when they are "the rich". Class warfare is not helpful. Go GOP!
This is the GOP (based on the looks of the RNC meeting attendees) : a bunch of late-middle-aged white men (average age seems to be about 55), maybe a quarter women (likewise, late-middle-aged), very few ethic minorities, no young people, very few people of color. "Plain white bread".The DNC meetings look like the rainbow that America really is. In diversity is our strength, as so many have said. The Republican Party is doomed, like the extinct dodo bird..
With a name like reince, you have to be a republican!
Like McCain, Stelle is a fraud and is paying the price thankfully. It the Republicans ever hope to recover any believability again they need to do major- cleaning of house- and find some real leaders with a mind unlike Stelle and Bush..!