Steele made his announcement today after a fourth round of balloting in which he was one of five candidates vying for the chairmanship as members of the RNC gathered near Washington to make the pick.
In the fourth ballot, Reince Priebus, head of the Wisconsin Republican Party, led the race with 58 votes. Maria Cino had 29, while Steele and Ann Wagner had 28. Running last was Saul Anuzis with 24.
Steele had run second, with 44 votes, in the first round of balloting, which Priebus led with 45.
In announcing his withdrawal, Steele urged his backers to support Cino, a veteran Republican operative who worked in President George W. Bush’s administration and has been on paid leave as a lobbyist for Pfizer Inc. since Dec. 31.
To win, a candidate needs 85 votes from the 168 RNC members, who are selected by state-level party activists.
Critics of Steele, 52, charged that he neglected major donors during his term and they blamed him for the group running up a $20 million debt that undercuts efforts to promote Republican candidates.
Steele, the committee’s first black chairman, won his post in January 2009 after stressing the importance of Republicans reaching out to -minorities following Democrat Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election. Steele embodied the party’s hopes for improving its ability to compete with Democrats for support from minority voters.
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