Steele has not said whether he will run for a second term, and last week he skipped a candidate forum put on by a prominent group of conservative RNC members. Many who watch the committee believe between 35 and 50 of the 168 members will back Steele, far short of the 85 he would need to claim an outright majority on the first ballot. An incumbent chairman who does not get a majority on the first ballot rarely picks up votes in later rounds.
Two candidates, former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis and former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner, have announced they will run for chairman, while former RNC political director Gentry Collins and former Bush administration official Maria Cino have indicated they will formally enter the race in short order. Former RNC chairman Mike Duncan is also a potential candidate.
Priebus's departure is the latest in a long series of exits from the RNC during Steele's tenure. Steele has fired a communications director, a chief of staff, a research director and a finance director, and several former aides have left for other positions.
An RNC spokesperson was not immediately available for comment early Sunday morning.