Steele Out, Priebus in as New RNC Chairman

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WASHINGTON -- The head of the Wisconsin Republican Party toppled controversial Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, Friday, to become the party's next leader.

It took seven rounds of voting by GOP insiders, but Reince Priebus managed to defeat three challengers and Steele to win the job.

Steele put up a hardy fight, getting 44 votes in the first round to Priebus' 45 votes. Eighty-five votes were needed -- one more than half of the RNC's 168 voting members.

Priebus addressed the RNC officials and members gathered in Oxon Hill, Maryland, outside Washington D.C. moments after winning the vote.

Priebus thanks Jesus

Vocal about his Christian faith, Priebus began his comments saying, "I just want to thank God. I want to thank Jesus for this moment. I am so blessed."

In the past, Priebus was a major supporter and defender of Steele, even as the RNC fell into scandal, debt and a lack of direction.
Now, critics worry Priebus' leadership could mean more of the same.

When Priebus did break from Steele several months ago, he quickly piled up a number of endorsements from RNC bigwigs and voting members.

Many were impressed by how he helped turn the traditionally blue state of Wisconsin more red, with Republican victories in all the major races there on Election Day.

Tea Party partisans were particularly pleased with Priebus' victory. They feel one of the reasons for that sweep in Wisconsin was Priebus' enthusiastic embrace of the Tea Party and working with it throughout the election season.

In some other states, RNC insiders and leaders opposed Tea Party-types, such as in the furious fight of Tea Party-backed Christine O'Donnell to wrest away power from a long-time establishment Republican officeholder in Delaware's GOP primary.

Dissatisfied with Steele

But Reince Priebus was just one of four major Republican Party insiders to challenge Michael Steele for his job.

Many Republicans felt Steele had to go for several reasons.  His fundraising abilities -- a necessary skill for a party chairman -- seemed weak.

Republicans may have put together an impressive string of victories in the midterm elections, but much of the funding came from outside groups, not the RNC.

Whether Steele is to blame or not, the RNC managed to fall more than $21 million in debt during his tenure.

The RNC has also seen its share of scandals in the last few months, and Steele was often criticized for his controversial statements.

Priebus was interviewed about his pro-life views by Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, and Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage.  Watch his comments here.

Priebus' Pro-Life Views

Reince Priebus recently answered questions from two pro-life, pro-family advocacy groups during the run-up to the RNC voting.

When asked about his stance on abortion he answered, "I believe we all have to live mission-driven lives. Certainly we all try to please God. I'm a 100 percent Psalm 139 pro-life Republican."

"I support our Republican platform which I think is rock solid on the issue of abortion," Priebus continued. "I believe Life beings absolutely at the time of conception... If we start there then every single question after that is really easy. That's where I start when I think of the issue of abortion."

Priebus went on to tie his stance against abortion to his views on America's founding documents.

"My Christian faith is the foundation of my view on the issue of abortion," he said. "My opinion and view of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution shapes my opinion on the issue of abortion."

He also discussed aiding a Care Net crisis pregnancy center in Kenosha, Wis., and helping start another in Racine.

"[These centers are] a great place and a safe harbor for women facing difficult situations -- where pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, food and diapers, and an opportunity to share the love of Christ with people who are in real trouble and making some tough decisions," Priebus explained.

Priebus will oversee the 2012 cycle when Republicans will attempt to defeat President Barack Obama. 

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.