By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Party chief Michael Steele, resisting appeals that he step down, told fellow Republicans on Monday he planned to seek a new term to help lead the party through the 2012 presidential election.
Steele, in a lengthy conference call with fellow members of the Republican National Committee, admitted to making mistakes while using a captive audience to make the case for why he should win a second two-year term when Republicans choose between him and several challengers in January.
"I stumbled along the way," Steele said, according to some who heard the conference call. "I've made no excuses. I'm asking you tonight for your support, I'm asking for your vote for a second term."
Many Republican officials had hoped Steele would respond to pressure and not attempt to gain re-election after a rocky two years in which he was accused of spending too much money, attracting too much attention to himself and not raising enough money to help Republican candidates in the November 2 congressional elections.
As one RNC member who heard the call described it, "Defying all logic, sensibility, political acuteness, Steele has decided to run."
Steele, the first African-American chairman of the Republican Party, gets credit for leading the party as it wrested control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats in November congressional elections and improved their numbers in the Senate.
But the gaffe-prone Steele has long drawn complaints from Republicans who felt he was not focused enough on the hard, behind-the-scenes work of raising money and recruiting candidates.
Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, said he plans to challenge Steele.
"I look forward to discussing the future of our party," he said. "I think there are new circumstances that demand a different type of leadership. A debate about the future of the RNC is a healthy thing," he said.
During the campaign leading up to the November 2 elections, the Republican National Committee lagged in fundraising compared to the Democratic National Committee as many Republican donors gave money to other organizations that backed Republicans.
Since the elections, Steele has been reaching out to fellow committee members to determine whether he would have enough support to win. Republicans pick a new chairman in January.
Besides Anuzis, Those expected to seek the RNC chairmanship include former Missouri party chair Ann Wagner and the Wisconsin party chairman, Reince Priebus, who has been a close Steele ally.
Other possible candidates include former RNC political director Gentry Collins, longtime Republican strategist Maria Cino and former RNC chairman Mike Duncan.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jackie Frank)