RNC Chair reince Priebus joined me to start the third hour of the first show:
HH: Here, the third hour, I’m beginning with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, another Cheesehead, Reince Priebus. And last week, I chased around candidates like John Kasich and Ted Cruz as ineffectively as Aaron Rodgers is chased by Vikings defensive ends. Chairman Priebus, welcome to the new Hugh Hewitt Show.
RP: Hey, thank you, Hugh, and great to be on the show. Congrats.
HH: It’s good to be here. Let’s start with the big question. Chairman Ryan said, and he’s co-chairing the convention with you, you’re going to be running the business side of this thing. What’s that job entail, Mr. Chairman?
RP: Well, the exact split of duties is not known, yet, but the job really entails, in my mind, being as open, transparent as you can possibly be, and then going out of your way to be even more open and transparent on top of what you think is open and transparent. So no mystery, making sure that anything, especially on procedure from the floor, that over-explanatory, making sure that people understand the rules, how to make a point of order, how many delegates or states you need in order to make a motion so that there’s just no mystery about how to proceed, because the last thing we want to have is people that believe that they have an important point or motion to make, but they don’t know how to do it, or that things get stifled because of procedural type of issues. It would be very frustrating. So we want to remove all mystery and make everything as open as possible.
HH: Now tomorrow, Wisconsin votes, and if polls are to be believed, Senator Cruz is going to win, and maybe as many as seven, or maybe even eight of the Congressional districts up there. If that happens, open convention is almost certainly going to be the case, in which case the rules set matters a lot. Who’s on that Rules Committee? Who are those 112 people, and how do they end up empowered to set the new rules for the 2016 Convention?
RP: Sure, let me, and I’ll be as brief as possible, but let me try to make this as easy as possible, too. There’s two things going on in a primary. Number one is the candidates are competing in these states for the allocation of delegates, meaning how many delegates in Wisconsin does Ted Cruz get, does Trump get, and does Kasich get? That’s the first question. That’s what’s happening tomorrow. When the election happens, that determination will be made. Those delegates will be, on the first ballot, and likely a couple ballots thereafter, they’ll be bound to whoever wins the allocation of those delegates tomorrow. Now, next step is the selection of delegates. In other words, okay, you won the right to those votes, but who’s the person that’s actually in that chair? And that’s an important step, too, because after the first or second ballot, if you have an open convention, you want to know what that person thinks, because then when they become a free agent, their opinion is going to matter when they become unbound. Their opinion is going to matter. Okay, so imagine you’ve got 42 people in a room now. They’re the delegates. They’ve found, they won these little battles in the Congressional districts. They’re the ones selected to be in those seats. Okay, so now you have 42 people in the room. Those 42 people are going to have an election. First election is who’s going to be chairman of the convention delegate group, okay? So one person runs. Hugh Hewitt says I’m running, Reince says he’s running, another guy’s running. Okay, Hugh Hewitt wins that. Hugh now is the delegation chair of those 42 delegates from Wisconsin. Next election, who are the two people, one man, one woman, that are going to sit on the Rules Committee? And so you have 50 states, six territories, and you have a man and a woman that gets elected, and just like I laid out, onto the Rules Committee, onto the Credentials Committee, onto the Permit and Organization Committee, and onto the Platform. So those things are happening in April and May, those actual, those in the room type election. The allocation of delegates is what everyone talks about. But this, these other battles take place after the allocation. How is that?
HH: That is great. So those Rules Committee members, those 112, get together in Cleveland, what, the week before July 18th?
RP: That’s right, and traditionally, even would get together like Thursday or Friday before the actual convention. In Tampa, I think the Rules Committee only lasted one day, but I would imagine this year, it might take a few more days if we’re in an open convention.
HH: Who presides at the Rules Committee?
RP: I appoint the chairman of the Rules Committee, and traditionally, the chairman has been someone who’s at least a delegate at the national convention. So I appointed, I appointed, sorry.
HH: You know, Karl Rove, Karl Rove was on the Rules Committee in 1972, he told me last week, which is pretty amazing if you think about it. So…
HH: Because the head of the CR’s was…
RP: I thought he was, right, I was just going to say, I thought he was like the College Republican chairman back then.
HH: He was. And he was allocated a chair because of that. So let me ask you about during that interim period, June 7th to the Rules Committee. There’s one important thing going on, and you talked about it with Chuck Todd yesterday. Let me play for you Cut number 21 of Reince Priebus and Chuck Todd on Meet the Press yesterday.
CT: And one last question. Considering we’re going to have an open convention, you’re going to have three candidates fighting for delegates and worried about who those people are. Should the RNC be in charge of the VP/running mate vetting process, considering that everything is going to get scrambled? Have you offered to provide those services to the candidates?
HH: You know, not particularly. I mean, we certainly are equipped with our research team to do it. But that’s another interesting question, because the delegates choose the vice president as well. And that’s a subject no one’s really talking about, is that that’s another vote on the floor that the delegates choose. And so while I’m sure obviously the choice of whoever the nominee is going to be important, it’s still up for a vote of the delegates.
HH: Now Mr. Chairman, Chuck bogarted my question. I talked to him about this on Friday. If you’ve got three campaigns, and they’re vetting five to ten people each, leaks are going to happen. It’s going to be a nightmare. Isn’t this the perfect place for the RNC to say to the campaigns send us your veep candidates, we’ll run the vetting, and no one will leak anything?
RP: Well, I mean, like I said, this came up yesterday. I’m perfectly happy to help in that regard, and maybe that’s something that we’d be willing to do. And we’ve got some time before we have to deal with that, but I think it’s a good suggestion, and something that I will talk to the campaigns about. But I do think, and I know this is not the question twice, but I do think it’s curious that people aren’t talking about, they’re talking about an open convention and the votes for the nominees, but people aren’t talking about the vote for VP. It could be quite amazing if that were to happen.
HH: You’re right. You’re right. You’re absolutely right. They can do whatever they want. And if…
RP: And everyone’s unbound. I mean, that’s the other thing. There’s no binding. There’s no first and second ballot binding. It’s just a free vote.
HH: How interesting. Now last question from me, in terms of setting up a calendar, I hope you get there on Monday at 10:00AM and hold the first ballot, and then schedule them, 10:00 and 4:00 every day. I don’t want them at night when people have been drinking. I don’t want disturbances in the street.
HH: Are you going to lay out, because normally, the convention is run by the presumptive nominee, and they choreograph it along with the chairman. But you’re kind of, you’ve got the keys to the kingdom here. Are you spending late nights choreographing this thing?
RP: Yeah, we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how this would work. I mean, on Monday, nothing’s for certain, so I’m doing what I’m not supposed to do, which is thinking aloud on a public broadcast with you. But we’ve been thinking about this, and there’s procedural votes that have to take place on rules and permanent org, and there’s a lot of, there’s actually a lot of votes that you, so we’ve been looking at the possibility of electronic voting, which I think you know in our rules is allowed on procedural votes and preliminary votes, not the votes for president, the nominee. But you have to do that stuff first, and so the question, as you know, can you get through a couple of votes, one, or if it’s only one, great, but if you need a couple, and you get through a couple votes on Monday, so those are the types of things we’re looking at, and then trying to figure out programming as something that we’ll obviously be consulting with the candidates on as well. So we’re definitely thinking about it, Hugh.
HH: Well, I hope that first ballot is on Monday, and I hope radio row, for the first time ever, is right in front of the podium, Mr. Chairman. Just remember, radio row should be in front of the podium. Reince Priebus, whose Reince Reforms have done more for the party than anyone knows, especially having the convention in July.
End of interview.