The Republican party chairman, Michael Steele – the first African-American to hold the post, was ignominiously pushed out of office today after a two-year tenure dogged by controversy and debts.
Steele took over the post in January 2008 as Barack Obama became president. He was initially regarded by some Republicans as a useful counter to accusations that the party was overwhelmingly white.
But he proved to be an unpopular chairman, accused of failing to provide inspirational leadership, being gaffe-prone and unable to attract the kind of big donations the party has come to expect.
Donations did go to Republican candidates from big business, but they went directly rather than being channelled through party headquarters.
In spite of pressure on him to quit, Steele insisted he would seek a second term, but his lack of support was evident today in a ballot of the 168 committee members for a new chairman.
Steele only narrowly lost the first ballot, but after that backing for him dwindled in the next three ballots and he eventually withdrew. "I will step aside because I think the party is ready for something different," Steele said.
The Wisconsin party chief Reince Priebus, was elected to succeed him.
Steele leaves behind a party that, in spite of sweeping gains in November's congressional elections, has debts of $22m (£14m) and has failed to resolve the philosophical divide between moderate Republicans and the more militant Tea Party activists.
Reflecting that divide, the party has no obvious candidate yet to take on Obama for the White House next year.
One of the low points in Steele's stewardship came when, in spite of being short of cash, details of party spending revealed that one of his aides ran up a bill of $2,000 at a sex-themed bar in California.
Internal battles and personality clashes led to resignations and became public.
At times, Steele could be a good television performer, with a handy soundbite, but too often party members watched anxiously, fearful of another gaffe.
He angered candidates in January last year when he predicted the party could not win control of the House in the November vote. The prediction turned out to be wrong, with the Republicans making big gains against the Democrats to take control of the House.
He said today: "Despite the noise, despite the difficulties, we won. We must go forward, and we must win. We fired the Democrat and former speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Let's take the Senate. Let's take the White House."
When he announced he was standing aside, he was given an ovation.
See also: Rand Paul