HH: Kicking off what is in effect Wisconsin week. Coming up next hour and in hour number three, Congressman Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee is joining me to talk about his new book, The Way Forward. In a couple of days, Governor Scott Walker is going to succeed Paul Ryan on the book circuit talking to me. And I begin the week with the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. Mr. Chairman, welcome, always a pleasure.
RP: Hey, nice being on the show, Hugh. I hope you’re doing great.
HH: I am indeed. I’ve got to say, I want to start with breaking news. The New York Times has just reported that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have attacked Libyan Islamists without telling us, and, “The United States, the official said, was caught by surprise.” That’s sort of not surprising that the President is surprised, is it, Reince?
RP: Well, I mean, if you’re out on the golf course, and at Martha’s Vineyard for two weeks, and seemingly asleep at the wheel, obviously it would be a surprise. But look, I think it’s a tragedy of American leadership, and you know that, and I know that, and I’m sure most of your listeners agree. I just think it’s an affront to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and everything that so many people have worked hard for. So as I’ve said many times, I think that we’re in a battle for freedom in this country, and we’re in a place now where we can’t just be a midterm party, but we do have to win the Senate. And then we have to regroup and make sure that we’re laying the groundwork to win a big cultural vote in this country for freedom and all the things that our founders have fought for.
HH: That’s what your friend Ryan’s book is really an extended argument for that. But I do want, one more question on the President. I’m surprised Maureen Dowd went and lit out after President Obama.
RP: What a column, huh?
HH: Yeah, but you know, walking off to play the back nine after saying I’m sorry about James Foley, I think that was his killer rabbit moment, if you remember Jimmy Carter and the killer bunny. What do you think? Do you think the disgust with the President is widespread? Or is that just among opinion elites?
RP: Hugh, you know, this is an interesting topic. First of all, I did the, I was honored to do the response to the weekly radio address this weekend, which you know a party chairman doesn’t usually get that role, but I did it this weekend. And I highlighted that exact issue where you had an American journalist get beheaded by fanatical terrorists, and the President went off back to vacation. Here’s the thing, and this is odd, and so maybe it’s a little bit more psychology, but here’s what I don’t understand in this town. And for those people listening, I’m sure they can relate. You have basically a bunch of people here with AAA personalities. Everyone wants to be great. People are climbing over each other left and right. And you can just imagine the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. But here you have a President who has enjoyed enormous successes in his life, whether education, moving, you know, president at a young age, Senator out of nowhere, and yet the odd thing here is you have someone leading this country who’s just bizarrely aloof to the world around him, almost as if it’s, either it’s extreme aloofness or an attitude that he just doesn’t care. And it’s odd. It’s weird. It’s hard to describe to see a person in that position with what would seem to be, and a personality that would want to be the greatest ever, and yet maybe detached and oddly and bizarrely aloof. I don’t know how to describe it.
HH: You know, I am not a psychologist, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn, but I’m increasingly inclined to believe those people who use the narcissist word are correct in applying it to the President. He’s just self-absorbed.
RP: Well, I don’t, I don’t know what it is, but you know, I’ve said this before, and not to repeat something on your show, but if you’ve ever taken a multiple choice test, whether it be the ACT or the SAT or some big, long college test or something, and you know, getting every single question right is really hard to do. But getting every single question wrong is equally tough to do. It’s really hard, actually. Statistically, it’s very difficult to get every single question wrong. And he’s mastered that.
HH: Yeah, that’s where we get radio producers from.
RP: But he’s managed to do it. And he’s the president of the United States.
HH: Yeah, it’s amazing.
RP: And it is really sad. It’s really terrible.
HH: Well, let’s turn to the political consequences of this.
HH: The reason I asked to talk to you today is the candidate cycle for the Senate is complete, and tomorrow, Doug Ducey’s probably going to get nominated. He’s my friend, he’s my guy in Arizona, and that, they have a primary, but our Senate candidates have all been selected. And I’ve been doing this since 1989. I’ve covered 12 election cycles with Senators on the ballot. The Republicans have never fielded as strong a team of candidates ever as far as I’m concerned for open and competitive seats. I don’t know if you agree with that, Reince Priebus, but we’ve had, Dan Sullivan, Mike McFadden, Joni Ernst, people came out of nowhere, Thom Tillis…
HH: Well of course, we knew Tom Cotton was going to be great, and Scott Brown’s been a Senator before, and Bill Cassidy’s been in the House. But this is, and Cory Gardner’s a superstar. This is an incredible field.
RP: Yeah, I mean, there’s no one that can say we didn’t put the best team on the field that we could possibly have put on the field. That’s the first piece. And we’ve done that. And you’re looking at tied polling in New Hampshire, you’re looking at people, like you say, McFadden in Minnesota that are coming out of nowhere. Gardner may be our best recruit in Colorado, Sullivan, I mean, the list goes on and on. I mean, basically, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, although we’re going to keep working hard and not taking anything for granted, but those are almost, those are getting runaways practically at this point. So we need to find three more seats. I think we can do it. But it’s going to be won on the ground, and we’ve got, the good news is that between the RNC and the Senate committee and many others, we’re putting an operation together that we haven’t seen in the midterm. And I think the fundamentals is where we need to be – ground game, digital data, absentee ballot program, every single thing that we can do to make sure we win has to be done. And I think we’re going to have an historic victory come November, and obviously, we have to do it to help and try reversing some of the things Obama’s done, but then preparing the field for 2016, which I think is really important.
HH: Now my colleague, Guy Benson, tweeted out today that the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee, to avoid the acronyms, are both getting outraised.
HH: Is that true?
RP: Yeah, it is true. I mean, but I can say that the RNC is outraising the DNC by quite a large amount over this cycle. And I think collectively, you know, it’s going to even out. I mean, between the three committee on the Republican side and the three committees on the Democrat side, it’ll even out. And I just think that for the entire year, two years, actually, that the committees have been out in the field, I think the quality of work, I think the amount of people, the longevity that people have been spending in these targeted states are important. But here’s the other thing to remember. These, one of the reasons we’re optimistic is that these states that we’re talking about, you mentioned Alaska, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, the President didn’t win 41% in those states in 2012.
RP: I mean, so he’s more unpopular today than he was two years ago. In the case of Arkansas, you mentioned Tom Cotton, I think the President received somewhere in the neighborhood of between 37 and 38% of the vote in 2012. Now seriously, and he’s going to come in and that’s why he’s avoiding that state, and that’s why someone like Mark Pryor is, you know, he’s sinking.
HH: He’s invisible, and he’s sinking like a rock. Now let me ask you looking out a little bit further, since the last time we talked, the Cleveland Cavaliers have signed LeBron James. We traded for Kevin Love, and we’re going to win a few NBA championships in a row here. So does that mean a July convention in Cleveland, 2016?
RP: Well, we have, we’ve got some time to make the date consideration, but clearly, I mean, this might, I’ll give you this. This very well might be the first time in national convention history that NBA free agency is helping us figure out what date we ought to choose.
HH: (laughing) Because I think you don’t want to be there in June, because no one’s going to, you’d better not send the Cavs fans.
RP: Yeah, the Eastern Conference isn’t very strong, either, so you’ve got that going for you, too, buddy.
HH: And we’ve got the best team for the next five years. So I think we’re looking at July 18. Can I make a little news tonight? You think that’s the way it’s going?
RP: I can’t give you, I can’t give it all to you, but seriously, the Love acquisition, you know, I don’t know how many trades the Cavs have to make before we start getting nervous.
HH: All right, now and then also, on the debate question, you put together this committee. But my phone hasn’t rung, yet. So this debate committee clearly is behind.
RP: Well, here’s the thing, Hugh. We’re having our first meeting here in D.C. among the debate committee Wednesday.
HH: Just make sure Hewitt’s on that agenda, will you?
RP: Yeah, listen, you’re one of my favorites. And so I will tell you this.
HH: I’m so shameless.
RP: I mean, you know I mean that, and Salem Communications as well, and listen, I can’t give a whole lot away tonight, but clearly I’m favorable to your company, and you guys do great work.
HH: Now so the last last question, get out the vote, I spent all day with Carly Fiorina, American Majority on Saturday in Denver. You think our GOTV is catching up to their effort?
RP: Well, I mean on the ground, I mean, clearly. And I think on the digital side, too, I think if you look at some of the things that are happening here at the RNC, and our Silicon Valley office in San Mateo, there’s a bunch of different groups out there that we’re working with as well to make sure that we have all the consumer data, the voter data, the Census data, so that at any given moment, you can take 200 million people in the voter file and find out everything you need to know about who you’re talking to, so that your messaging is tailored to the group that you’re talking to.
HH: Music to my ears, Reince Priebus. Thank you for joining us, Mr. Chairman.
End of interview.