*Monday evening Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele stunned friends and foes by launching a fight to keep his job.

Steele discussed his decision during a conference call Monday night with members of the Republican National Committee.

His decision means the party will be debating the record of its first African American chairman as it takes control of the House. Steele and Republican congressional leaders have been at odds, and a bruising fight would be an unwelcome distraction.

Steele faces an uphill battle to keep his job, note party veterans, including some who say they like him personally but doubt he can win. His move sets up a battle with half a dozen rivals.