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5 Things You Need to Know About the RNC Chairman's Race

1. FRONT-RUNNER UNDER ATTACK. Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has taken a clear lead in his bid to lead the Republican National Committee, as rivals react by questioning his record and his judgment. Priebus has scored 30 public endorsements so far, more than a third of the 85 votes he would need to win the chairmanship outright. Now, RNC members who support other candidates are beginning to launch increasingly public questions about Priebus's tenure as RNC general counsel and his close ties to incumbent Michael Steele. And unlike anonymous attacks that take aim at all the candidates on a daily basis, the shots launched at Priebus are signed by RNC voters. Read more »

2. COLLINS DROPS OUT. Former RNC political director Gentry Collins will end his bid to become the next chairman of the party, he said late Sunday night. Collins, who resigned from his position in November with a letter offering a scathing commentary on Steele's leadership, said he entered the race to provide an alternative to Steele. But the entry of other qualified candidates helped Collins toward an exit. Read more »

3. THE GREAT DEBATE. Collins's departure means Steele will face four candidates as he seeks another two-year term in office. All five candidates -- Steele, Priebus, former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis, former RNC co-chairman Ann Wagner, and former Bush administration official and 2008 Republican convention organizer Maria Cino -- will meet for a debate today at the National Press Club. The debate is being organized by Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller.

4. ALREADY OUT THE DOOR. The top spokesman at the RNC will leave his post just after elections for new officers are held, even if Steele keeps his job. Doug Heye, who has served as communications director since February, will make an official announcement today. He will not immediately announce a new position. It is the latest instance of a senior official at the RNC leaving even before Steele's tenure officially expires -- the RNC has lost two communications directors, a chief of staff, a finance department director, and a political director. Read more »

5. WHIP COUNT. Nearly half the voting members of the Republican National Committee have declared their support for a chairman candidate. Expect several more members to make public their commitments after today's public forum at the National Press Club. So far, at least 76 committee members have publicly said they back a candidate. The standings: Priebus -- 30 votes, Steele -- 15, Wagner -- 12, Anuzis -- 10, Cino -- 6, Collins -- 3. Read more »

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