Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele gave up his re-election bid on Jan. 14 after it became apparent that he did not have enough votes to win another stint at the forefront of the GOP.
Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus won with 97 votes over second-place finisher Saul Anuzis.
After a fourth round of voting, Steele watched his numbers decline for a third consecutive time and decided to throw his support behind Maria Cino. Steele gave a short speech when he stepped aside, saying that now was the time for a new direction.
“Two years, we’ve had a good time. We’ve done a lot of good things,” Steele told RNC members according to ABC News. “The party wants to do something a little bit different and hopefully a little bit better.”
His comments come in stark contrast to what he told the AFRO earlier this week, as Steele touted the progress the Republican Party made under his leadership.
“I feel good. What’s not to feel good about?” Steele said. “We took a moribund, demoralized party that was touted around the country as an endangered species just two years ago and through a lot of effort and by taking a lot of risks we turned it around.”
Steele found himself in plenty of hot water during his tenure, however, including blunders in the media such as going against party lines and maligning Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer for that state’s Immigration law. Alongside his perceived lack of fundraising success for the party, many Republican insiders saw the need for change.
“Everyone is basically working around him,” former GOP Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota told the Associated Press six months before Steele bowed out of the race. “Republicans have sort of put together a mode of operation for this election cycle that does not put the RNC chairman in a central role. That’s not the optimal way of handling things. But in a very strange way that gives him some protection because there’s no urgency to replace him—no matter how grave of a misstep he made.”
Republican strategist Raynard Jackson said Priebus’ victory is evidence that the party is looking to re-evaluate the duties of the chairman.
“His election tells me that no one will know what he’s doing,” Jackson said. “The party wants a technocrat – somebody who won’t be in the media.
“Furthermore, he will be horrible in the media,” Jackson continued. “He’s not a great public speaker.”
Jackson agreed that Steele made great contributions, but in the end, wasn’t able to overcome his mistakes.
“He’ll be remembered for all the controversy from the verbal gaffes to the money mismanagement,” Jackson said. “You will not hear people talk about the races we won under his chairmanship. All the negative media coverage will overshadow what he was able to accomplish.”
Steele said he had other things up his sleeve in case he didn’t win. He said “there’s always something to do.
“I always have a plan B, C and D … I’m not going away.”