Showdown: RNC chair voting now underway; Update: Steele wins!

You can watch live online on C-SPAN or follow along with the running updates at Hotline or Campaign Spot. First man to 85 wins. The bad news: After one round of balloting, current chairman Mike Duncan leads. The good news: Some people thought he’d start off in the neighborhood of 70 votes, with a possible clinch on the second or third ballot. Instead he’s stuck at 52, just six votes ahead of Michael Steele. Ken Blackwell, who I thought would end up the favorite, is dead last with 20. Stand by for updates.

Katon Dawson’s third at the moment, but third-place finishers in the first round have gone on to win before. Here’s tomorrow’s headline today if he somehow manages to pull it out.

Update: Is the man of Steele about to shock the world? 48-48 after the second round.

Update: Steele 51, Duncan 44 after the third round. A money quote: “It’s a diverse party. We’re tired of being labeled as white supremacists.” Ambinder thinks Anuzis will make a deal with Steele, which would means 24 more votes for a total of 75, but I read somewhere else that Duncan and Dawson, the southerners, might make a deal of their own. That would mean 78 votes combined. Which would also mean Ken Blackwell, with 15, would get to play kingmaker.

Update: Duncan feels the “winds of change” blowing and calls it day. That leave 40+ votes in play. I’ve got a bad feeling that most are going to shift to Dawson and we’re going to see those headlines tomorrow after all…

Update: I can’t believe they’re going to elect a guy who has a whites only club in his past. After four, with Duncan’s votes now split, it’s Dawson 62, Steele 60. Anuzis has 31 and could put either of them over the top if he makes a deal.

Update: Blackwell says goodbye, and reportedly endorses Steele. If all 15 of his votes swing that way, Steele has 75, within 10 of clinching. Anuzis is the kingmaker now.

Update: Here’s what Blackwell said about Steele. Think he’s worried about the racial implications of Dawson defeating Iron Mike?

“I cannot change the composition of this electorate [pause for laughs] nore would I want to,” Blackwell said.

But he added, Republicans must “unleash a new birth of freedom” He said, Republicans need a candidate who “must inspire hope,” “have leadership ability and a “vision to pull us together and … Americans together” …

“That is why I put my fullest support behind Michael Steele.”

Might not be good enough. Blackwell’s supporters are hardcore conservatives, and Steele has a reputation (mostly unfairly) as a centrist.

Update: The fifth round is history and Blackwell’s supporters seem to have listened to him: Steele 79, Dawson 69, Anuzis 20. Your move, Saul.

Update: Anuzis is out, without an endorsement. Can Steele pull six votes from his pile? It’s all down to this.

Update: No word yet on the final tally but the man of Steele is the new leader of the party. He’s speaking now; we’ll have video soon. Let the racist “progressive” photoshops begin!