Still, he indicated that the group would play "an even more robust" role in the next elections.
In the run-up to the presidential election year, Priebus will serve as the party top spokesman promoting its agenda, countering Democrats, raising money to help Republicans and improving a get-out-the-vote effort that critics say languished under Steele.
A former top lieutenant to Steele, Priebus promised to hire top-notch staff, restructure the organization and put it on solid financial footing so the next GOP presidential nominee will be prepared to take on Obama.
"We have to get on track. And together we can defeat Barack Obama in 2012," Priebus said in a brief victory speech, pleading for unity within the fractured committee. "We all recognize that there's a steep hill here ahead of us, and the only way that we'll be able to move forward is if we're all together."
Topping his agenda, Preibus must retire the huge debt owed to vendors and banks, as well as lure back demoralized donors who have been so frustrated with Steele's management that they sent their dollars elsewhere or didn't open their wallets at all last year. The party had only about $1 million cash on hand at year's end.
Priebus also will have to figure out how to navigate a GOP civil war in which conservatives and tea party disciples are trying to pull the Republican Party further to the right to the chagrin of moderates and some longtime establishment leaders.
And he'll have to plan the 2012 GOP convention while helping the GOP navigate the congressional and legislative redistricting process under way following the 2010 census.
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