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Collins ends RNC bid, as Steele’s path to victory closes

With less than two weeks remaining before the Republican National Committee votes to select its next chair, the New Year’s holiday weekend saw a number of new developments in the race.

Gentry Collins, one of the first candidates to publicly challenge current chairman Michael Steele, has ended his campaign to claim his former boss’ position. Collins — a former Iowa GOP operative — made a splash with his entrance in the race, as he had served the RNC as political director during Steele’s term leading the party. Before he declared himself a candidate, Collins resigned from his RNC position with a scathing letter attacking Steele’s tenure leading the GOP. But since entering the field, Collins has struggled to gain support from RNC delegates, with only three members having publicly pledged their support to him before he ended his bid.

Though Steele now has one fewer opponent, his path to reelection appears to have closed. Politico approached the RNC delegates and found that over half intend to oppose Steele when the GOP votes on Jan. 14.

A weeklong canvass of the party’s governing board by POLITICO revealed 88 members who have decided not to vote for Steele, either opting to support one of his opponents or simply ruling out Steele as a choice in the race.

With 165 voting members, a candidate needs to claim support from at least 85 delegates to claim the RNC chair position, a number that now appears completely out of Steele’s grasp. Only 15 RNC members have said that they intend to vote for the current chairman.

So if not Steele, who is likely to claim the chairmanship? Former Wisconsin Republican Chairman Reince Priebus is the apparent leader in the race for the moment, with 30 delegates already publicly pledging their support. But since the RNC chairman is chosen through multiple rounds of balloting until one candidate secures half the votes, the battle to win the election may hinge more on which candidate positions him or herself as the second choice of the most delegates. However, the other candidates do have a significant amount of ground to make up if they are to equal Priebus’ level of support. Former RNC Co-Chair Ann Wagner currently sits as the second-place challenger to the incumbent, with 12 public supporters, followed by former Michigan GOP Chair Saul Anuzis with 10 backers and Maria Cino with only six supporters.

The candidates will meet in Washington, D.C., Monday in a debate moderated by Grover Norquist and Tucker Carlson.

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