Last Friday, the 168 members of the Republican National Committee voted out their controversial chairman, Michael Steele, and — after seven rounds of voting — agreed to replace him with Wisconsin GOP leader Reince Priebus. A 38-year-old lawyer, Priebus has been active in the party since he joined the College Republicans at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the early 1990s, but is not a high-profile figure, at least not yet. Here's a quick guide:
1. Priebus is known as a GOP unifier who runs a tight ship
Priebus led Wisconsin Republicans to big victories in the November midterm elections, picking up two House seats and the governor's office, as well as defeating longtime Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold. "He is seen as humble, effective, and a... [bottom-line-minded] executive," says Bradley Blakeman at Fox News — a unifier who can help the party move past Steele's frequent gaffes and controversial spending. Priebus' first move: Firing the free-spenders Steele had chosen to plan the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. (Meet Reince Priebus)
2. Some Tea Partiers are not sold on him
Priebus cited his good relations with Wisconsin Tea Party groups as proof that he can bring Republicans together to defeat President Obama in 2012. But several leaders of the protest movement have complained that Priebus gave them "only lip service" during the midterm campaign, prioritizing mainstream GOP concerns over Tea Party calls for smaller government and lower taxes, says Kenneth P. Vogel in Politico. "Priebus will do whatever it takes to co-opt the Tea Party movement," said Mike Murphy, chairman of the Tea Party-allied Republican Liberty Caucus of Wisconsin.
3. Priebus lost his only bid for elected office
Unlike Steele, who served as lieutenant governor in Maryland, Priebus has never held elected office. He ran for state Senate in 2004 — his only campaign — and lost. But he has extensive experience as a party insider, and that is where he gets his clout. He has served as general counsel to the Republican National Committee, and was picked to be chairman of the Wisconsin GOP in 2007.
4. He finds romance in politics
Politics has long been a big part of Preibus' life — even his love life, reports The New York Times. For his first date with his now-wife more than a decade ago, Preibus got tickets to the Lincoln Day Dinner in Kenosha, Wis., so they could hear the keynote speeches by Reps. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois and James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin. "I know. Nerd alert," Priebus says. "But we went to a movie after that."