WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Party chief Michael Steele, who has faced criticism despite Republican election victories, planned to announce on Monday whether he would seek to lead the party through the 2012 elections.
Many Republican officials believed Steele had decided not to run for a new two-year term as head of the party but the unpredictable Steele may surprise them.
Steele was to hold an evening conference call with fellow party committee members to let them know his decision.
A host of candidates to either challenge Steele or fill his position as head of the Republican National Committee has already surfaced, meaning Steele would face a stiff challenge if he did decide to run again.
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 that he has been too focused on building up his image on television rather than doing the hard, behind-the-scenes work of raising money and recruiting candidates.
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.
Those expected to seek the RNC chairmanship include former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis, 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