Updated: 4:51 p.m.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele dropped his bid for re-election after four rounds of ballots, endorsing Maria Cino over the four candidates still in the multi-round election to replace him.
“I will step aside for others to lead,” he said.
In a hotel ballroom at the RNC winter meeting, Steele watched his support drop in the second, third and fourth rounds after finishing the first ballot just one vote behind Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus. All of Steele’s opponents were working between votes to pick up former Steele supporters.
“I will step aside because I think the party is ready for something different. And at this time I release my supporters, and I ask them to stand with me in supporting Maria Cino,” Steele said, appearing to be choked up. “We fired Pelosi, let’s take the Senate, let’s take the White House.”
“Now I exit stage right,” he said, to a standing ovation from the entire ballroom, not just members.
In the fifth round of votes, Cino picked up some supporters but Priebus held the lead with 67 votes. A candidate needs 85 votes to win the chairmanship. Cino had 40 votes in the fifth round, followed by former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis with 32 votes and former Missouri GOP Chairwoman Ann Wagner with 28 votes.
But in the sixth round Priebus surged to 80 votes, just five shy of the number needed to win. Anuzis had 37 votes, Cino dropped to 34 votes and Wagner remained in last place with 17 votes.
More on Cino can be found here.