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Michael Steele Drops out of RNC Chairman Race

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"...now I exit stage right."

UPDATE III:

OXON HILL, Md. (The Blaze/AP) -- GOP Chairman Michael Steele has dropped his re-election bid after falling behind in balloting for the leadership of the Republican National Committee.

He asked his backers to give their votes to GOP operative Maria Cino.

"At this time I will step aside for others to lead," he told members. "I think the party is ready for something different."

Despite sluggish popularity, Steel took time to defend his tenure. "Despite the difficulties, we won," he added.

"Barack Obama's agenda is not good for America. We fired Pelosi. Let's take the Senate, let's take the White House. Let's heal America," he said. "Thank you for the opportunity to serve and to lead and now I exit stage right."

Steele got a standing ovation after his announcement following a rocky two-year tenure that saw Republicans notch huge victories last fall.

After four rounds of voting, Reince Priebus (Ryns Pree'-bus) was leading, having gained ground on Steele during each of the first three rounds. Cino, Ann Wagner and Saul Anuzis also were competing.

This is a breaking update. The Blaze's earlier story and updates are below.

UPDATE II:

GOP Chairman Michael Steele is losing even more ground after the third round of balloting for the leadership of the Republican National Committee.

Top challenger, Reince Priebus (Ryns Pree'-bus) lengthened his lead by two; the Wisconsin Republican Party chairman got 54 votes. Steele lost four votes, putting him at 33. Ann Wagner inched up to 32, while Maria Cino and Saul Anuzis trailed.

UPDATE:

Michael Steele trailed a challenger after two rounds of voting Friday as the Republican National Committee chose who should lead the party in the run-up to the 2012 presidential campaign.

Steele, who surprised even his closest aides by seeking re-election, came in second in the committee's first two rounds of voting and was losing ground to leader Reince Priebus, the Wisconsin Republican Party chairman.

Fox is reporting that Steele is currently meeting with one challenger behind closed doors, possibly in a attempt to get that person to drop out and endorse him.

Original story below.

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- Embattled GOP Chairman Michael Steele survived the first round of voting Friday as he fought to hang onto his post leading the Republican National Committee.

Four challengers argued that they would be better stewards of the party heading into the 2012 elections, when defeating President Barack Obama will be the GOP's primary objective.

Steele, who surprised even his closest aides by seeking re-election, came in second in the committee's first round of voting, getting 44 votes to 45 for Reince Priebus, the Wisconsin Republican Party chairman. Maria Cino, a New York native and a veteran party operative who served in the Bush administration, got 32, followed by Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, with 24, and Ann Wagner, a former Missouri state GOP chair who once was an ambassador under George W. Bush, with 23.

No one has dropped out of the race so far.

Ballots are being cast by 168 committee members. Eighty-five votes are needed for victory. Several rounds of votes are expected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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