RNC Chair Reince Priebus joined me on the show this morning to bring me (an the audience) up to speed on the campaign for the White House and –crucially– the campaign to keep the Senate and House in GOP hands:
HH: Joined now by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Chairman Priebus, I’m just back from two weeks in Europe. Anything happen when I was gone?
RP: (laughing) Yeah, well, you know, it all ends well. It all ended pretty well, and we’re on to a better place, I think. And so we had a good week last week, and Paul Ryan and Donald Trump met, and it went about as well as anyone could hope for. So now we start a new day today. Welcome back.
HH: Well, then let me ask you, Reince Priebus, about the Daily Beast today has a story by Betsy Woodruff that begins, “How Donald Trump Trapped the Republican National Committee.” That’s the headline.
RP: Oh, trying to see that…
HH: And it says, “For years, the Republican Party has been developing talking points and strategic tactics to use against Hillary Clinton, and one by one, Donald Trump seems to be rendering them useless.” What do you think?
RP: I didn’t even hear. Can you repeat that?
HH: Sure. “For years, the Republican Party has been developing talking points and strategic tactics to use against Hillary Clinton, and one by one, Donald Trump seems to be rendering them useless.”
RP: Yeah, I don’t even know what that means. I mean, obviously, Hillary Clinton’s got her problems, and that’s why she’s in the ditch. And quite frankly, I think people across the country are angry, and they want something done, and they’re going to have a choice to make between someone who’s made their entire life off of politics and making millions upon millions of dollars from politics, or an outsider that’s never run for office before and is a businessman, and that’s Donald Trump. And so I don’t know, I happen to think that she’s got a lot of problems in that battle, and you see it across the country. While you were gone, there was a poll that came out much to the shock of, I’m sure, people like this writer, that showed Donald Trump ahead in Ohio against Hillary Clinton, tied in Florida and tied in Pennsylvania. So I’m not really sure what she’s talking about. I haven’t read the article. I might read it, I guess, but I might not. Who knows?
HH: You’re not feeling helpless, then, against her? Let me ask you about two things specifically – money and get out the vote. Donald Trump has said that he’s going to raise money, and the Wall Street Journal has a story today that he doesn’t have the ready cash to self-finance, even if he wanted to. Can he raise the money, Reince Priebus, you need to run for president?
RP: Well, he’s committed to raising the money. We’re going to be probably having a joint fundraising agreement out very shortly where the Republican National Committee and the Donald Trump campaign combine their efforts into a joint fundraising agreement much like we did with Romney’s victory and McCain’s victory, Trump victory, Bush victory. That’s the program that combines all the different buckets that you can put together, and then you go across the country and you raise the money that you need to put together the ground operation. Now obviously, it’s up to other folks, but I would imagine there will be a superPAC put together by someone out there that will also probably raise money, and they’ll probably do independent television advertising. And I think you saw that Sheldon Adelson, among others, has committed to putting in a lot of money in that effort and other efforts. And so I think that Trump is going to have the money. And certainly, our folks are committed to raising the money across the country not just for the presidential race, but for the targeted Senate and House races that we need. And nobody has raised more money than the Republican National Committee in Washington. The DNC is not even close. We’ve set records on low dollar fundraising, online fundraising, and major donor fundraising for the past six years. So we know how to raise money.
HH: Let me ask you about get out the vote. I did read when I was abroad a story that quoted Donald Trump as saying he’s not going to concern himself with microtargeting, that that he’s going to stick with his rallies and the way that he won. No one can argue he won. He won, and he won. But I do worry about get out the vote. On the other hand, I know that the RNC has been working on this for years. Can you make up for what Donald doesn’t put in place?
RP: Well, I think, I’m not quite sure where that, those sets of comments go, but they’re committed to working with the RNC, and we’ve built over $100 million dollars in new data. We’ve got a data operation, digital operation here that we’ve never seen before. We’ve got hundreds of people working in that area, not to mention the thousands of people out in the field doing the voter identification work. Quite frankly, unlike four years ago, you know, we’re more prepared today than we’ve been in decades. And so, in some ways, he may not need to invest a whole lot in that, because we’ve done so much. So he’s got to be committed to it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he has to spend a whole ton of money on it, either, because we’ve done that by being a full-time party for many years.
HH: Now Reince Priebus, I want to talk to you about the Magnificent Seven. These are the seven Senate seats that matter to me the most – Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, John McCain in Arizona, Rob Portman in Ohio, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Joe Heck’s challenge in Nevada, and whoever wins Florida holding onto the Rubio seat. I endorse Ron DeSantis. I know you stay out of that. But those seven Senate seats are going to decide whether or not Mitch McConnell remains the leader. How confident are you feeling about those races? And do you have the GOTV and the money to deliver assistance, along with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, obviously, to those magnificent seven campaigns?
RP: Well, the RNC is heavily invested in the infrastructure and plumbing in all of those races. And that’s really what we do. I know for the listeners it’s not the most exciting stuff that we do – ground game, data, turnout, voter registration. When you think about the Republican National Committee and a national party, you have to think about a party that has its act together on the ground and with data. And that’s what we’re doing in all of those states right now, far ahead of where we were four years ago, in some cases, 25 times bigger, not 25% bigger, 25 times bigger than we were in 2012. And we’re going to be committed in those states. Now here’s the other thing. I mean, Arizona typically is not a battleground state, but it may very well be because of the race for the Senate. But all those other states that you mentioned, those are overlapping into the presidential race. So you not only have the work on the ground in the Senate race, but you’ve got to work on top in the presidential. And as the presidential goes, so goes the Senate races. It’s very difficult to win Senate races if you’re not doing well at the top of the ticket. That’s why for people out there, you know, it’s an all or nothing deal. I mean, you’ve, we’ve got to be in for the whole ticket, because it’s very, you cannot just leap over the top of the top of the ticket. So it really is a team effort up and down the ballot.
HH: Then talk to me a little bit about, well, I’ve got a couple of things to ask you about. I have got a concern about the tax returns, because Mr. Trump made a commitment to me on this show that they would be released, probably very soon, he said last year. They’re not. I’ve got concerns on the negatives with women. I’ve got concerns over military preparedness and a plan to rebuild the Navy. Do you think he’s going to address these effectively, Mr. Chairman, and especially the running mate thing, when I hear, and God bless Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, but we need somebody young, because we’ve got a millennial gap here that’s pretty significant with Donald Trump.
RP: Well, in regard to the issue that you brought up on foreign policy and trade, I do know that he’s delivering a series of policy speeches very shortly in continuation of what he did about two weeks ago before you left. And those are going to continue. I do think that the vetting process is far more detailed, and I know that there’s more involved in that vetting process than I think is being reported right now. So I think, I would just kind of let those VP rumors go by the wayside and assume that the Trump campaign understands that while he’s an outsider and represents sort of this shake-up in Washington, which you don’t want to lose, because I think that is what people want out there across the country. He also understands that we’ve got to have a real seasoned veteran, and I do agree with you. I think there has to be a degree of diversity on the ballot. Now whether it be a diversity of age, or whether it be a diversity of gender, or ethnic background, somehow or another, diversity is important in some respects. So I agree with that. But obviously, it’s not my decision, and I think they’re, but I do think they’re going to take their time and do it right.
HH: Have you turned over the planning of the convention to Donald Trump’s team?
RP: No, we haven’t, but we’re going to work with them, I mean, just like we would normally work with any candidate. I think the most overlap and sort of teamwork comes with programming, because you do want the campaign to have a say over how they want their candidate portrayed. It only makes sense. And so where you have more cooperation is on the programming piece than anything. But as I remind everyone, it’s not a candidate’s convention. It’s the party’s convention. This is a convention for the Republican Party.
HH: And Mr. Chairman, I remember that George W. Bush came out in 2004 to a Fred Thompson-narrated wonderful movie about W. in the aftermath of 9/11 and his leadership. Are they beginning to do things like that? Do you know if they’ve got the staff and the infrastructure to prep for message delivery?
RP: I don’t know the detail of what they have or don’t have, but I do know that they’re working very closely with the team in Cleveland in starting the process of getting prepared for those sorts of things. I’m certain that they will have plenty of those sorts of videos and background information and music and bands, and you know, obviously the speeches will be there. But I’m not worried about that, Hugh. I think that they get it, and they were in Houston last week, by the way, working on the convention with the convention staff in Cleveland.
HH: Well, that’s good. That’s good.
RP: So yeah, I think they’re taking it very seriously.
HH: Let me then, then let me turn to the big, let me turn to the big story of this week, which is a bunch of conservatives, I can’t make it, but I was invited, are going out to see Mark Zuckerberg about the so-called curation of Facebook News and whether or not it’s been biased. And I look at Google News, different from Facebook, of course. First story, Memo To Republicans, If You Endorse Trump, You’re Destroying Your Career. Second story, Trump London Mayor Made Very Rude Comments About Me. Third story, Trump Says He And Cameron May Not Have A Good Relationship. Fourth story, Trump: I Don’t Care About London’s Muslim Mayor. He didn’t actually say that. In other words, it’s all anti-Trump, all the time at Google News. I don’t know who’s curating Google News, but what do you make of this Facebook story and this, because so many young voters get their information exclusively from social media, and these algorithms that are so-called curated?
RP: Well, we’re speaking with Facebook about this. You know, we kind of blew this up a little bit, you know, while you were gone, and it sort of took a life of its own after we had pushed this out, after we had learned about these particular rumors. But they claim that it’s not true, of course, and so we said okay, let’s talk to you privately about it. And so we’re working on it on our own. I think it’s good that these groups are going out there to find out what is the truth, what is going on. I mean, and I think it’s important for us to do that. As far as this other news is concerned, you know, look, Hugh, I’ve been through this for a year, and you have, too. You’ve bene very involved in this process, especially through the debates, and it’s caused you to, I’m sure, dig in even more than you, even though you would normally. You know, none of this stuff has stuck. I mean, if anything, I don’t, I don’t ever subscribe to the theory that any news is good news, because I don’t really believe that. But I also have seen Donald Trump survive through all this stuff. And part of it is because he doesn’t represent to these people one particular story. He represents something bigger.
HH: Much bigger.
RP: Do you want someone who’s tough to take on Washington? That’s Donald Trump.
HH: Much bigger. Reince Priebus, great to have you back, Mr. Chairman. I’ll talk to you again often in this campaign.
End of interview.