Reince Priebus on the RNC's battle plan heading into 2016

Yesterday a few of us in the blogger community had the chance to sit down with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and tag him with a few questions. The Chairman had pretty much lost his voice by that point, but was still nice enough go through with the meeting. The topics mostly centered on what the RNC has in place in terms of the next election cycle, how they relate with the conservative base, the mechanics for the presidential primary and what we can expect from the committee in terms of grassroots support. I’ll just transcribe a few of the salient points here. (If you have additional questions you’d like to hear Reince answer, let us know and we’ll get back to him.)

What does Reince think about someone seeking the Presidency who has never held elected office? (I got the impression that the person asking the question was referring to Ben Carson here.)

In practical terms it can be more difficult on the candidate, but that doesn’t mean that it’s something that Americans wouldn’t buy into. It’s not easy to get used to the scrutiny that comes from the national press. It’s not easy to even get used to standing in a room with people like all of you who are ready with tough questions. So I think it’s harder, but I also think the traditional way of doing things isn’t necessarily the best way. And I think that’s why we’re wide open on our side of the aisle.

I asked the Chairman where things stood on the RNC taking control of the debates and if he was getting push back from the networks.

A lot of the groups are cooperating. The Salem Media announcement came because CNN was cooperating, so I’d say hats off to them for working with us on this. We’ve never tried to take control of the debates before. As simple and normal and reasonable as it sounds for us to say, we want to have a say in what the debate process is going to be for our own party. Therefore we want to have Republicans and conservatives involved in that process. That’s a very normal sounding comment, but normal and reasonable is not what’s been going on for the last twenty years. So a lot of the things I talk about involve having a competent national party when it comes to the ground game, the data, marrying the ground game and the data, having a decent, good ground game operation and having control of the calendar. Also for the debates. That’s what a national party needs to do. Be competent! That’s not the most exciting topic in the world.

The point is, I can come to CPAC and sell the RNC because I can tell anybody out there, whether you’re for Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, you better hope to God you’ve got a national party that’s competent so they can plug into something while we’re having these debates. What I always try to tell everybody is that we can’t always be just a candidate crazy party to the detriment of the mechanics. We have to tell everybody that candidates are really important, but if you wait until next spring or summer to get all this stuff wound up that we’re in charge of that’s not going to work.

People say, ‘Gee whiz, this is an establishment takeover. You guys are trying to take over. This is about control.‘ Well, it is about control. It’s about whether you want the liberal media to control the process or do you want the party whose nominee is eventually going to be on the ballot to control the process. So, yeah… it is about control.

Our colleague Guy Benson asked Reince about the recent Hillary Clinton news and her foundation donations from foreign governments.

I don’t know how Hillary Clinton is going to take a three o’clock call from a leader in Yemen or Algeria or Saudi Arabia when she was willing to have her foundation take potentially millions of dollars from those governments. No lawyer in America would work on both sides of the V and not get their license revoked. The first thing to do is we have to start getting people excited about finding out the truth. Which countries gave money? Who authorized the money to go there? Who did the negotiating? Because people don’t just wake up in the morning and say I’m going to write a check for $25K without talking to somebody. Somebody solicited a donation. Someone made that donation happen. Somebody collected the check. There’s a thousand stories to be written about how this money went from Algeria to the Clinton Global Initiative and Hillary Clinton is in the middle of it, so I don’t know how she does the job as president. If you want to talk about disqualifying someone as president it’s not about having fifty articles about whether Barack Obama is a patriot or not or a Christian. The issue is, how is it possible that the Democrat frontrunner is going to be president when she was taking money, while she was representing the country as the Secretary of State.

On Obamacare, Reince said that it was important for the GOP to have an alternative to it and that people like Paul Ryan were hard at work on that. He was also asked about Common Core and whether or not a candidate who supported it was electable. (That seemed to be a shot at Jeb.) He said that most of the GOP was in favor of standards, but how those standards are administered and who was in control of the standards would be “for each candidate to decide. ” But as a matter of policy, the RNC is opposed to Common Core and they passed a resolution in 2013 saying so. On the subject of the primary calendar he said there was going to be zero tolerance for states jumping the line and breaking the RNC rules and if they did the penalties would be so severe in terms of the number of delegates they received that it was unlikely anyone would do it.

There were a few other topics, but my fingers are wearing out from transcribing this. Feel free to send any follow-up questions to our Tips line and I’ll see if we can get them in.

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