Former RNC chairman says Priebus is man to beat

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan says Reince Priebus is the man to beat at Friday's vote to elect the committee's next chairman, but warns he better lock it up early.

"He's definitely the front-runner right now and, depending on what happens on the first ballot, he could lock it up pretty quickly," Duncan told The Ballot Box.

Duncan said he wouldn't be all that surprised if Priebus has the race in hand as early as the third ballot Friday afternoon, but said the longer the vote drags on, the more the field will open up. 

Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, leads in the number of national committee members already pledged to support his bid. Candidates need 85 of the committee's 168 members to win. 

Duncan, who dropped his 2009 bid for reelection after a poor showing in early balloting, predicted Priebus could lose strength if the voting drags on Friday afternoon.  

Duncan noted that, while he doesn't expect Michael Steele to return as chairman or have a particularly strong early showing, "it certainly makes it tougher for [Priebus], the longer the vote goes on."

In 2009, Steele won on the sixth ballot, defeating South Carolina Party Chairman Katon Dawson 91-77.

If it's not wrapped up after three rounds of balloting, Duncan said folks should settle in for a long afternoon.