The Republican National Committee selected a new leader on Friday, with its choice, Reince Priebus of Wisconsin, surviving seven contentious rounds of balloting to overtake Michael Steele, the embattled chairman, as party officials demanded new leadership to fortify the party for the 2012 presidential race.
Mr. Priebus, who broke away from Mr. Steele’s close circle of advisers to run against him, said he would work to rebuild the trust of major contributors who had lost faith in the party and begin preparing to challenge President Obama. He pledged to heal any divisions among Republican constituencies.
“We all recognize that there’s a steep hill ahead of us,” Mr. Priebus said, delivering his first remarks as party chairman. “The only way we’ll be able to move forward is if we’re all together.”
Mr. Priebus, 38, the chairman of the Wisconsin state party, presided over sweeping statewide and local Republican victories in the midterm elections, including the defeat of Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat. He was the preferred candidate of much of the Republican establishment and was recruited by party elders to replace Mr. Steele, whose stewardship of the party had become a central issue in the race.
Even in the intimate circles of Republican Party politics, Mr. Priebus is far from well known. He rose through the political ranks from his hometown, Pleasant Prairie, working as a local activist, the state party treasurer and finally the state chairman, which he became four years ago — making him a member of the Republican National Committee. He also served as the committee’s general counsel.