ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus told fellow members of the Republican National Committee on Monday that he was jumping into the race for chairman, dealing another setback to current RNC chief Michael Steele.
Priebus, who has been an ally of Steele's, vowed in a message to the 168 voting members of the committee who will select a chairman next month that, if elected, he would run “a tight ship at the RNC.”
“I will keep expenses low. I will put in strong and serious controls. We will raise the necessary funds to make sure we are successful,” Priebus wrote. “We will work to regain the confidence of our donor base and I will personally call our major donors to ask them to rejoin our efforts at the RNC.”
For weeks, Priebus had been rumored as a potential candidate, but he cleared the path to making it official when he stepped down on Sunday as the RNC’s general counsel. His letter, and an accompanying campaign video, is an attempt to put some distance between himself and Chairman Steele.
“For me, being State Chairman isn't a title — it's a mission,” Priebus wrote. “As Chairman of the RNC, I will assume that same laser focus. Less drama, more hard work, more results and more focus on winning.”
In a five-minute long video that Priebus circulated among committee members features testimonials about his leadership of the Wisconsin GOP from Senator-elect Ron Johson, Governor-elect Scott Walker, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.
And Preibus already has powerful backers like Mississippi RNC Committeeman Henry Barbour, who told ABC News that he would support Preibus’ bid.
“I am convinced Reince is the strongest of the candidates and can do the job well. Reince has an outstanding track record in Wisconsin,” Barbour said. “I believe Reince will be able to unify the committee, manage our overall coalition, organize, raise the money and restore the RNC to credibility.”
Priebus joins two other already-declared candidates for chairman — former Michigan Republican Pary Chair Saul Anuzis and former Missouri GOP Chair Ann Wagner. Several other candidates, including former RNC Political Director Gentry Collins, long-time Republican operative Maria Cino and former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan have indicated an interest in getting into the race.
Steele has yet to say whether he will seek a second term, and Priebus’ announcement is another indication of the difficulties he would face even with committee members who were once considered allies.
“I’m not running for chairman because I think I’m better than anyone or because I think I have all the answers” Priebus said in his announcement video. “I’m running for chairman for only one reason: I believe our country is in a time of great peril and we have to do something about it.”
Watch Priebus' video: