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As they campaigned together across Virginia on Thursday and Friday, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele praised Robert F. McDonnell, the state’s GOP gubernatorial candidate, as an innovative leader.

McDonnell was just as enthusiastic.

RELATED: GOP Leaders Tell Steele To Stop Meddling In Policy

“Thank you to my largest donor, Michael Steele,” he told a crowd outside a train depot in Culpeper on Friday, referring to the millions that the RNC has poured into the contest. And seeming to realize the potential double meaning of his words as Steele’s 6-foot-4 frame towered over everyone, McDonnell joked, “And also my tallest.”

Steele smiled at the rhetorical embrace by McDonnell, who polls show is leading in Tuesday’s contest against Democrat R. Creigh Deeds — a reality that could mean as much to Steele as if he were the candidate himself.

RELATED: Steele: Both Parties Failing To Address Poverty

Once heavily embattled because of a series of gaffes that infuriated his fellow Republicans, Steele is already taking steps to cast strong showings in Tuesday’s races in New Jersey, Virginia and New York as signs of both a Republican comeback and his own successful leadership.

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