HH: Joined now by the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, who received news today, this very day, that Cincinnati and Las Vegas have withdrawn their bids to host the Republican National Convention in 2016. So Chairman Priebus, welcome back, it’s always a pleasure to have you.
RP: Hey, happy to be on. I’m sure you’re excited that Cleveland moves on to the real formal round of choosing a city for the convention.
HH: I mean, this is over, isn’t it? We’re not going to lose to Dallas, Kansas City or Denver. This is basically, this is like the Browns in the Super Bowl.
RP: (laughing) I don’t know if that’s the best analogy to use. We all, you know, the one thing about the Browns, of course, is that everyone kind of, no matter what team you root for, you always love seeing the Brownies do well. But no, Cleveland is a very strong city. The host committee is extremely enthusiastic. They’ve done very well on the financing. They’ve got a world class arena in Cleveland, nice setting on the lake in the summer. So no, they’re very strong, Hugh.
HH: You know, Reince, I went over the day after they drafted Johnny Football, I went to downtown Cleveland. I was in Ohio. I made a little video and put it up at YouTube, and I got the security guy to walk me around the new convention center. It’s gorgeous.
RP: Yeah, it’s pretty good. I mean, where we would want to do the convention, though, if it was in Cleveland, we’d want to go to where the Cavs play.
HH: Yeah, to Quicken. You’d to go Quicken Arena. But it’s one mile to the convention center, so you’d stick all of us media stiff in radio row over in the convention center, right? And then you’d…
RP: Well, it’s a pretty good media workspace over there.
HH: It is.
RP: And it’s not bad at all. And you know, they’re building, they’ve got a few more hotels going up, so Cleveland’s strong. There’s no question about it. And that’s why the entire site selection committee how is going to be going to Cleveland. And now the formal review starts, and all the technical issues involving all the other cities are now kind of eliminated, and now we’re moving on to this final found. So you should be happy.
HH: I’m very happy. I’m just telling you, there’s no reason to go to Dallas or Missouri. We’ve got those states, Kansas City, and honestly, we can’t go back to Denver. And I love Denver, and I’m going to be teaching at the Colorado Christian University this summer, but if you go to Denver, you’re kind of going where President Obama got the ball rolling. That’s bad déjà vu. I mean, we don’t want to remind people of the columns.
RP: I would be careful, though, espousing like where you go as being the place that would help you win, because if you look at the history of conventions, you could probably make a better case that you know, you usually lose where you have a convention.
HH: Yeah, Rove said that last week, although he’s a big Cleveland supporter. Rove was on. Hey, let’s talk about the debates a little bit.
HH: And that’s because you guys adopted your new rules, and these are terrific rules. Now I’ve been lobbying for Cleveland, but I want to lobby for Hillsdale, Colorado Christian University and Thomas Aquinas College as settings for RNC-sponsored debates to send messages as well as great debates. So that’s my three lobbying on that. What are the rules that you guys adopted on debates?
RP: Well, for one thing, we took a first step in the meeting in Memphis a couple of weeks ago. We may take further steps going further into the rules on how we’re going to control the debates at our August meeting. So we’re going to have a subcommittee of people getting together to look at more rules. But the current rule penalties that we adopted were number one, we would set the debate calendar here at the RNC. So we agree that a committee here will set the calendar, meet with all the potential debate partners, participants. We will decide on the frequency of debates, the start of debates, the moderators, the debate partners, everything. And we will set the calendar. Then the rule will be for our candidates, look, if you compete in debates outside of the calendar, then you can’t compete in any debates in the calendar.
HH: That is brilliant. That is actually brilliant. Who came up with that? Is that a Priebus innovation? That’s a good rule. That’s a smart thing.
RP: Well, it was, yeah, it was a Priebus innovation, but it was a team effort. I mean, I had other ideas, too, and one of my other ideas was that we would penalize delegates and all that, not the delegates, but we would take away delegates for violations. But this seems to be the best outcome, because it allows for a couple of things. One, the calendar will be released, and all the candidates will see the quality of the debates, the fact that there are some that will have conservative members of the media moderating.
HH: Such as your colleagues who’s talking to you right now, for example.
RP: Well, I’ve always said I think Hugh Hewitt and Salem Communications would be a great partner.
RP: And I really believe that. That’s not something I’m saying for your show. I think Salem Communications, I think you would be a very good moderator. I want people, I don’t mind, I want tough questions.
HH: You bet.
RP: We want people to be able to, you know, if you want to slice and dice and get to the heart of the problem. But at the end of the day, I’m interested in people who give a darn about the future of the Republican and conservative party in this country to be deposing our candidates.
RP: I’m not looking for softballs. I just want someone who actually gives a darn about us.
HH: And not ask about birth control, but ask about the nuclear triad, and not ask about absurd micro issues when in fact the world’s on fire. Reince Priebus…
RP: And I don’t mind if someone wants to ask about birth control, but I don’t, we don’t need 45 minutes of it, you know?
RP: I mean, so that’s the point. You know, I’m not…and so this is an opportunity for us as a party to say we are tired of the liberal media taking and picking apart our candidates for their benefit. And so someone had said to me, well, this is about control. Well, it is about control It’s about who do you want to control the nomination process of our party? Do you want the actual party to be in control? Or do you want the liberal media to be in control?
HH: But let me ask, Reince, mixed in with the center-right commentators/moderators, you would still have people like Jake Tapper and Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier, and people who are known to be extremely good, fair, objective journalists and well-known to the country, right?
RP: I would certainly not disqualify any of those people. I’m not in a position to say who’s going to be a moderator and who’s not, yet, but I’m not looking to have this thing be only people who blog or write or talk about only, who is in the conservative stratosphere.
RP: But I think that we can have, do a better job of having a mix of serious news people and serious conservative news people kind of in a combination. I mean, that’s kind of what I’m thinking about, but I’m going to let the committee do that work and come up with a sensible, reasonable calendar.
HH: Hey, Mr. Chairman, hold on for three more minutes if you can. I want to come back to this subject with Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee after the break.
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HH: I had to ask Chairman Priebus a question about my guest in hour three today, Martha McSally, who’s running for Congress out in Tucson. I’m broadcasting today from Phoenix, Chairman Reince Priebus of the RNC, and I’ll be talking to Martha McSally over in Tucson. That seems to me, as a former A-10 pilot, the first woman combat pilot in the American Air Force history, that that is a ripe Congressional seat for return to the Republican fold. Are, do you guys have that list on your must-win list?
RP: Oh, man, 100%. It should have been a must-win last time. She’s a hero, and obviously an incredible candidate. But that is a great example of a district that if you have, and what we’ve changed, I think, about our party, in being a year-round, on the ground party in every place across America, that a few tiny notches better on the ground in Hispanic communities, better on absentee ballots, better on voter data, she would be the Congresswoman right now. And so I think the improvements made on the ground, and in data, and the fact that she’s also going to be running again and she’s learned from the past, too, I think she’s going to be a winner. She already is a winner, by the way. She doesn’t need to be a Congresswoman to be a winner, but she is the whole package. And so…
HH: And you’ve got to be happy with the way these primaries have gone. I know you’re going to stay out of the Kingston-Perdue fight, but McConnell being re-nominated is good for the party, Monica Wehby is a very viable, wonderful candidate in Oregon. I mean, the party is holding together, and the left had hoped it would be at civil war and at each other’s throats at this point.
RP: Yeah, there just isn’t a civil war. I mean, some people might want to say there is in the media, but it just isn’t the case. I mean, you just really, you’re talking about a small fraction of races that actually have even a serious primary, and in the end, everybody is on the same page. I emailed Erick Erickson immediately. He posted immediate, Mitch McConnell for Senate, and said here’s where I’m at, I’m on McConnell’s team, and if he had to choose between Grimes and McConnell, I’d go with McConnell every day of the week and twice on Sunday. I just emailed him and said that’s a very classy thing to do. And I mean, the team is together on this. We have to win the majority of the Senate, and then we have to figure out not just to be a great midterm party, but we’ve got to be a good presidential party. It’s a little different job, and that’s why we’re trying to run on both tracks here at the national party. And for me, it means that we need to quit being a national party that just is a U-Haul trailer of cash for a nominee. We have to be an all the time party, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
HH: Terrific, and as you, as the all the time party gets organized for 2016, just keep in mind, Mr. Chairman, the Cavs won that number one draft slot, the Browns got Johnny Football, the stars are aligned when that convention center comes online and Quicken Arena, and you’ve got all those great new hotels, the Westin, the Marriott, on the lake, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, new GOP, just sayin’, just sayin’ that’s what you’ve got to be focused on.
RP: Sounds good. We’re looking forward to it, buddy.
HH: All right, be well.
End of interview.