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Michael Steele out as Republican Party chair; Reince Priebus elected

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In the end, Michael Steele’s prospects for a second term as chairman of the Republican National Committee were done in by debt.

Daunted by some $20 million in financial obligations accumulated during the two years of Mr. Steele’s tenure, RNC members pitched Mr. Steele over the side on Friday, electing in his stead Reince Priebus to lead the party toward the 2012 presidential elections.

Mr. Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, was the frontrunner entering Friday’s vote. A former member of Steele’s inner circle, Priebus had to fend off questions about what he knew of the RNC’s poor financial condition. But Priebus is well known to RNC members and represented something of a safe consensus choice.

RELATED: Michael Steele's top 10 gaffes

Party insiders had been surprised that Steele decided to bid for a second term as chairman. But by midafternoon on Friday, it was clear that a second term was not to be, as Steele’s support dwindled ballot by ballot. Foreseeing his inevitable defeat, Steele stepped aside after four rounds of voting at Friday’s RNC meeting at the National Harbor resort outside Washington.

“I really thank you for the chairmanship of this party and the two years I have had, and at this time I will step aside for others to leave,” said Steele to the assembled RNC members.

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