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Michael Steele: "I Know Exactly How Caesar Felt"

Outgoing Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele participates in a debate between chairmanship candidates of the RNC, co-sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller, at the National Press Club January 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Michael Steele, who was ousted last week as chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview on Tuesday that "I know exactly how Caesar felt," invoking the famous last words of Julius Caesar in the wake of his loss to the man who once served as a friend and colleague.

Reince Priebus, who Steele appointed as the RNC's general counsel, was elected RNC chairman after seven rounds of voting. Steele dropped out after the fourth round - when it became clear he was progressively losing support - and threw his support to former RNC official Maria Cino.

Prior to Priebus's electoral bid, the two men were said to be friends and allies.

In the interview, with FrumForum's Tim Mak, Steele says he was blindsided by Priebus's decision to challenge him for the chairmanship - though he allegedly had been planning the move for months. "I trust my friends. Well, I guess the adage is right. In Washington, you should get a dog," Steele said.

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Steele said he had few regrets about his tenure as RNC chair, although he noted that he wished he could have "could have slapped some folks upside the head more when I had the title and the job."

Deflecting criticism about his term as RNC chair, during which Steele was widely rebuked for fundraising shortfalls and a series of embarrassing gaffes, Steele said there was "a lot of the noise about, 'our major donors are not going to give because Michael Steele is chairman.'"

"Why is that?" Steele wondered. "What, is it my cologne? Bald head?"

"I worked the phones every day. Every day," he said, but acknowledged, too, that "clearly I didn't perform well enough for folks."

Steele went on to say that he wasn't altogether done with politics.

"I'm not a quitter. I believe in the fight," Steele said.

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