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RNC Chairman Reince Priebus On The Selection Of Cleveland As Host City For The 2016 Convention

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HH: That’s a little music from the Cleveland Orchestra, because the Cleveland Orchestra is going to be in a lot of demand this coming cycle of the presidential season, because Cleveland, of course, won the right to host the GOP convention that summer, and that’s a great thing. Welcome, it’s a big day for news, we’re watching the Middle East as Israel and the Hamas terrorists exchange all sorts of rockets and bombs. Israel’s carried out more than 160 bombings in Gaza today as about the same number of Gaza Strip rockets launched by Hamas and their other even more radical allies hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem around 10pm. No confirmed fatalities, yet, in Israel. And I am now joined by Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Chairman, welcome, and congratulations, you picked the best city.

RP: I think so, too, and Hugh, you’ve been pounding away on this, and I’ve got to tell you, all that Cleveland Browns/Cavaliers/Indians talk, it subliminally sunk in, because we picked Cleveland. We’re excited about it. I think it’s a smart pick for the party. This is a city that’s on the rise, and I have to tell you, I mean, for people listening, if you have not been to Cleveland lately, you will be just like me who showed up and thought well, I’m not sure, let’s look at Cleveland and what they have. And I’ve got to tell you, we were all blown away. The lakefront, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, the Browns stadium there, they’re building a brand new 700-plus room Hyatt right in the middle of all that down by the lake. They’ve got the hotel rooms. It’s going to be very smooth. And you know what? That committee raised a lot of money already, and they’re off to the races. They have done an incredibly good job.

HH: Now I want to get into the depth of this, because I know Dallas put together a heck of a bid, as did Kansas City and Denver.

RP: They did.

HH: And it was tough, and it’s always tempting to go back to a place that’s familiar. And Cuyahoga County is deep blue, Reince Priebus.

RP: Yeah.

HH: You’re going right into the heart of the land where you’ve got to win some votes to win the state.

RP: And I think that makes it even more compelling for our party. You know, there hasn’t been a whole lot of correlation between the convention and winning the state, but I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know if we’ve actually tried to do it the right way. I think if we start early, a couple of years out, you get a big program. I was just speaking to the county chairman of Cuyahoga County this afternoon.

HH: Rob Frost?

RP: That’s right, Rob Frost, and trying to together from now an organization to really work hard on the ground in and around the convention. I will say this. I think that there is so much goodwill, I know it’s just one day, but there will be even more goodwill built up. Cleveland is hungry for this. They wanted it. The whole state is jumping for joy. And now they’ve got it. And I actually think there’s so much gratitude here that it is going to pay off for our party in the long run. I think we will get residual support from Ohio because of this decision. But again, it was made because Cleveland did a great job, and they are competent and ready to go, and that’s why we chose Cleveland.

HH: I’ve got to tip the hat to Frank Jackson, the Democrat mayor of Cleveland, who’s done a fine job, as fine a job that can be done by a Democrat mayor.

RP: He sure did.

HH: And he really came forward with the Governor, but I wonder, was your committee at all influenced by the prospect of back to back to back World Series, Super Bowl and NBA titles in Cleveland, because that’s how it’s shaping up.

RP: Well, I’m not sure about that. I can’t say I’m with you on that one, Hugh, but it involved, there is another compelling reason here that people will find to be pretty neat as far as Cleveland’s concerned. The Q there, where the Cavs play…

HH: Quicken Loans.

RP: …is an incredibly, it’s a really good facility. But you know, connected to the Q by a skywalk is Jacobs Field.

HH: Yup.

RP: And so you can get to Jacobs Field on the skywalk without ever leaving the grounds, and you had all of that space at the baseball field open for our use – restaurants, bands, hospitality space. People are going to be surprised by how contained the convention’s going to be. And boy, I’ll tell you, I think…

HH: And then all the media stiffs get sent down to the brand new convention center, but that’s a great convention center. I walked it just six weeks ago when Johnny Football came to town. I went up and took a tour of the new place to make sure the digs were looking good, so you’ve got plenty of space. My only question is on the money side, Dallas allegedly had a money edge. And Cleveland, let by Dan Gilbert, and you’ve got, of course, the new owner of the Browns, Jimmy Haslam and other are involved, and all the business community. Do you think they can close that money gap easily?

RP: Yeah, they’re doing great, actually. We are light years ahead of where we were with Tampa, St. Paul, and many of the other conventions. I can’t give the amount, but here’s what I will tell you. Cleveland and the host committee was about the same place that Dallas was at. I mean, it would probably blow you away if you knew what money commitments were already on the table. We are, by the end of this process, and there’s only about three more weeks left for the negotiated…Cleveland will be ahead of where we’ve been for eight years…

HH: Wow.

RP: …in presidential years in those cities right now.

HH: Wow.

RP: So I’m telling you, they’re two years ahead of where we’ve been in the past right now.

HH: Now let me ask you about dates, because two are in the newspaper – June 28th or July 18th. Are you leading to the June 28th date, Reince Priebus?

RP: It’s a June 27th start or a July 18 start. And I, if all things being equal, I would prefer the June date. But you know, there are some things that come with the June date that we have to look at and take in consideration. And so that’s a contracting process, you know, what kind of things are, is the NBS and the Cavs. And you know, what are they willing to live with? I mean, and I hate to blow it to you, but I mean, the odds of any NBA team in the finals is about one in a hundred. I mean, obviously not for the Heat and the Spurs and some of those teams, but if you’re like me, I’m a Bucks fan. You know, being in the finals is, it takes some time to rebuild. But…

HH: You are clearly not keeping up with the LeBron saga, Mr. Chairman. You’ve been busy.

RP: Well believe me, I’m keeping up with it. And that’s why, look, this will be the only time maybe in the history of national party conventions where the free agent market in the NBA could play a role in deciding a date.

HH: I know. Now let me ask you about a much bigger question – backdrop. Ohio has come back under the leadership of John Kasich. Of course, they’ve got national political leaders in Rob Portman, the Speaker, Jim Jordan, a bunch of people like that. How much is that story central to picking Ohio and Cleveland as the host city?

RP: Well, I think certainly what the Governor has done in Ohio is a model for the entire country, and he was just bouncing off the walls excited today on the phone. I mean, seriously, I mean, it’s just, he was just so excited and wildly shouting for joy when I called him. It’s a big deal. But I think that people can understand that we have to win Ohio. And I think that the leadership in Ohio is a great example of how Republicans can lead this country. And also, as a matter of the ground operation and a mechanically sound national party that’s active in Ohio today, right now, for the presidential election and important races there, this is an important step for us to win Ohio, not just in 2014, but 2016. And I think that Cleveland being a city on the rise, ready to go, that we’re going to take this opportunity and maximize it as best as we can to leverage it for all it’s worth, for not just a great convention, but for winning a presidential race there and helping save our country.

HH: Well, that is the number one deal, but of course, politics, you’ve got to win in politics before you can turn the country around. And there are places down there, I’m just curious when you went there if you got to E. 4th Street, over to Pickwick and Frolic and the Hard Rock Café. It’s a very booming downtown right now, and you have to put on a good party, because you want the energy level to be high.

RP: Well, that’s right, and that’s another piece of this, is the delegate experience. And when our team went into Cleveland, now I think they’ve been in there four times in the last two months, I mean, those are things they look to. I mean, it’s not just the show for the president, which really is the, you want to get the bump, you want to put on that presentation. That is the key, number one, for a convention. But besides that, that experience for the delegates is something that we take seriously, and the downtown, the shops, the restaurants, it is a city that is back on its feet, and it’s exactly the message we want to bring to the American people that with good Republican leadership, cities like Cleveland, states like Ohio, are back. And it’s time for our party, too, to go into places like Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and fight and win. And you know, these are small margins we’re playing with, and I think we can make a difference.

HH: Well, congratulations. I think you made a very wise political choice, one in a string of the Reince Priebus reforms including moving the primary calendar around and the presidential debates, and raising the money. So keep the momentum up, and I’m so glad, Mr. Chairman, that you’re coming to my home state. You will find the Buckeye reception extraordinary from now through 2016.

RP: Looking forward to it, Hugh.

HH: And you are going to have that Super Bowl title and that World Series ring, and the NBA playoffs will complicate it…

RP: No, I think Green Bay, that’s Green Bay. You guessed that one wrong.

HH: Be well, Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC announcing Cleveland today as the choice of the convention in 2016.

End of interview.

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