Later today at 1pm ET, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele will be facing off against several challengers at a debate. Under fire for months for spending too much and injecting himself into the public eye, Steele faces an uphill battle. Earlier today, Politico reported that over half of the 168 RNC members it surveyed said they would not vote to re-elect him.

Joining Steele at the debate will be lobbyist and former deputy RNC chairwoman Maria Cino; Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus; Saul Anuzis, an opponent of Steele's from his 2009 victory who is back to challenge him this year; and former Missouri GOP chairman Ann Wagner. C-SPAN will broadcast the event live on its website starting at 1pm Eastern Time.

In the Politico survey, Priebus had the largest share of support, but with only 35 members saying he'd be their first or second choice, he's still well short of the 85 he'd need to win during the first road of voting.

While Steele is likely to be the main focus of the debate, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform and the Daily Caller, the topic of how to counter the Barack Obama fund-raising juggernaut in 2012 is sure to be another. 

In an interview with Human Events, Steele dismissed the chief criticism lodged against him—that he's not raised as much money as his predecessor raised in 2002—by denouncing the comparison as unfair since during the 2002 campaign, so-called "soft money" was still legal and the RNC could take corporate money which it no longer can either.

During the debate, Steele will "name names" and "make it personal," a source close to the chairman told analyst Chris Stirewalt. Presumably that is referring to various people that Steele has referred to previously only in the generic that he's said have encouraged large donors not to support the RNC.

He will need a lot of rhetorical firepower to try to answer a report in this morning's Washington Times that the RNC is starting off the 2011-2012 campaign cycle with more than $20 million in debt.

Update 15:22. The debate has ended. Things were much more cordial than they might have been. Steele faced some criticism but he was most passionate on the topic of how the RNC does not make policy but rather does politics. More later. The video for the event will be live in a few hours at the C-SPAN website. You can also watch it again on television at 8pm ET.