Steele in striking distance of second RNC term

Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus remains the front-runner for the Republican National Committee chairmanship, which some observers predicted could spell trouble for his bid.

Priebus leads the field with 36 RNC members publicly backing him, according to a count by National Review Online.

Current RNC Chairman Michael Steele is a close second with 27 members backing him.

Priebus' front-runner status could prove a liability, according to Mike Duncan. The former RNC chairman, who was Steele's predecessor serving from 2007-2009, recently said the leader typically "loses momentum after the first or second ballot."

Meanwhile, former Missouri Republican Party Chairwoman Ann Wagner and Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan GOP, are tied for third with 14 votes each.

Maria Cino, a former Bush administration official, rounds out the field. Pennsylvania committeewoman Christine Toretti became the latest to back Cino, which brought her number of declared supporters to 12, according to a release and the NRO tally. She also has the support of House Speaker John Boehner, although he is unable to vote in the chairmanship race.

There are still 65 RNC members who haven't announced their support. A candidate needs 85 votes to win. The chairmanship election is set for Jan. 14.

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