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Priebus Wins RNC Chairmanship

Priebus Wins RNC Chairmanship

By Erin McPike - January 15, 2011

OXON HILL, Md. -- Wisconsin Republican Party chair Reince Priebus ascended to the Republican National Committee chairmanship after seven rounds of voting by RNC members Friday.

One hundred sixty-eight committee members - a combination of state GOP party chairs and an RNC committeeman and committeewoman from each state - endured a long day of voting that ended in a passing of the torch from Michael Steele, who had two tumultuous years at the helm of the committee, to the youngest candidate, Priebus.

In a victory speech just after the vote was announced, Priebus noted that the GOP can now "move on to conservative candidates," a plank he stressed throughout his campaign.

Priebus grabbed onto an early lead with 45 votes in the first round and didn't look back, but was nearly neck-and-neck with Steele after the first round.

Ann Wagner of Missouri, a former ambassador and the chair of Roy Blunt's successful Senate campaign last year, slowly gained through the rounds, as former Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis stayed steadily beneath the front-runners. But it was lobbyist and veteran Republican operative Maria Cino who received Steele's endorsement after four rounds of voting, when he was the first nominated candidate to withdraw from the race.

Cino had House Speaker John Boehner's support, while Priebus had the support of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's network.

In his nominating speech for Cino, Ohio GOP chair Kevin DeWine noted, "I don't envy anyone who gets the job."

The committee is in poor financial shape, with more than $20 million of debt. Cino had argued that as someone who ran the 2008 GOP convention in Minnesota, she was a behind-the-scenes leader who could rebuild the infrastructure and raise mountains of cash.

Priebus had a more sweeping platform, arguing that the GOP needed to recognize that it has succeeded when it has promoted conservative candidates. He suggested at one debate that the party should hold its elected officials accountable to the party's tenets.

Prospective GOP candidates for president and other high-profile Republicans quickly congratulated Priebus Friday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney issued a statement embracing some of Priebus's commentary during the race that touched on policy.

He said he looks forward "to working with him on policies that will create jobs and get our economy moving again. With 15 million people out of work, Americans are looking to Republicans to offer an alternative to the job-stifling agenda of the Obama administration. If we do that, we can build on our recent victories, increase our numbers in Congress and reclaim the White House in 2012."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged Priebus's work leading GOP candidates to victory in Wisconsin -- a major talking point for the new chairman, as the state has trended toward Democrats. Priebus helped to reverse that with the elections of Ron Johnson to the Senate and Scott Walker to the governor's chair.

Asked in a press conference after his speech if he considered himself the new spokesman for the GOP, Priebus said no, that his job was to serve the members of the committee and raise money for the elections of the next two years.

 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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