Former Republican National Committee 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 incumbent chairman Michael Steele's leadership, said he has entered the race to provide an alternative to Steele's leadership. But the entry of other qualified candidates helped Collins toward an exit.
Collins' candidacy itself was seen as a powerful indictment of Steele's tenure as RNC chairman. In a letter to the RNC's executive committee announcing his resignation November 16, Collins said a better-funded RNC would have been able to deliver Republican wins in two additional Senate seats, two more governorships and nearly two dozen House seats that Democrats ended up winning in the midterms.
That memo, Collins said, was "a game-changer for Chairman Steele's re-election prospects."
"During the last month and a half, I have spent my time traveling to 20 states and meeting with many members of the RNC talking about change in leadership at the RNC and how to get it back on solid financial footing," Collins wrote. "I entered this race to make sure there was a credible alternative to Michael Steele and have said from day one I will not get in the way of electing new leadership at the RNC."
"I believe that there are several qualified candidates in the race for Chairman, each of whom would do a fine job leading the committee through the 2012 Election cycle," he added. "I am confident that the members of the Republican National Committee will make the right decision on January 14th."
Collins had struggled to gather support for his candidacy. He had just three public backers -- Iowa state party chairman Matt Strawn, Connecticut GOP chief Chris Healy and North Carolina chairman Tom Fetzer -- short of the number he would need to be formally nominated.
Collins' departure means Steele will face four candidates as he seeks another two-year term in office. All five candidates -- Steele, former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis, Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, former RNC co-chairman Ann Wagner and former Bush administration official and 2008 Republican convention organizer Maria Cino -- will meet for a debate on Monday at the National Press Club. The debate is being organized by Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller.