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“This speaks volumes about the inclusiveness of the Republican Party,” former Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson told The Times as he stood at the back of the room watching the ecstatic uproar in the Capitol Hilton ballroom after Mr. Steele’s victory was announced.

“You know — the mentality to reach out of the ranks of the RNC, which is unusual when the Republican don’t have the White House, and to elect a nonmember and an African-American to be its leader, really an extraordinary thing, against several good, competent well-known members,” said Mr. Nicholson, who knows something about the agony and ecstasy of multiballot elections. He won his 1997 chairman election on the fifth round of balloting.

Mr. Steele “can be a great voice and vision for the party — what we need,” Mr. Nicholson said.

In an interview outside the ballroom, Henry Barbour of Mississippi, who split with his uncle’s doubts about a Southern party chief and endorsed Mr. Dawson, echoed Mr. Nicholson’s enthusiasm about the Steele victory.

About 8 p.m., former President George H.W. Bush entered the hotel and ran into Mr. Steele. The two men hugged and chatted briefly before Mr. Bush headed for the elevators.

Mr. Steele’s road to victory was littered with five defeated hopefuls. First, former Tennessee party Chairman Chip Saltsman announced Thursday that he was quitting the race before the balloting, leaving five contenders.

As expected, Mr. Duncan led the pack after the first ballot with 52 votes to Mr. Steele’s 46, with the others well behind. The second round had saw Mr. Duncan fall into a tie for first with Mr. Steele, 48-48. Mr. Steele then pulled ahead of Mr. Duncan in the third round, 61-44.

After the third round of voting, Mr. Duncan read the handwriting on the wall from his declining vote count and announced that he was quitting the contest — and won a huge round of applause. He did not endorse any of the remaining candidates.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who had the endorsements of some of the most prominent religious and economic conservative leaders but had not managed in subsequent rounds to duplicate his 20-vote first-ballot total, dropped out after the fourth round of balloting.

He took the podium to announce that he would back Mr. Steele — the only dropout to endorse a former rival. In the fourth round of voting, Mr. Dawson held the edge over Mr. Steele, 62-60.

After the fifth round, Mr. Anuzis, who had many admirers on the committee but dropped to a low of 20 votes after pulling 31 in the fourth round, pulled out without endorsing anyone.

In the sixth round, Mr. Steele trounced Mr. Dawson 91-77.

In the contest for Republican national co-chairman, the No. 2 spot on the committee, Wyoming RNC member Jan Larimore defeated Texas party Chairman Tina Benkiser.

In the race for secretary, Florida RNC member Sharon Day won over New Mexico RNC member Rosie Tripp.

Maryland RNC member Louis Pope defeated Randy Pullen, the Arizona party chairman, in the treasurer’s race.