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RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Talks About Reforming Iowa Caucuses And The Primary And Debate Calendar

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

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HH: Happy New Year to my next guest, chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. Hello, Mr. Chairman.

RP: Hey, Hugh, Happy New Year to you, pal. How are you?

HH: I’m warm, and I know you’re cold, but I’m glad you joined me. Condolences on the Packers. I just saw you do that with Wolf, but I’ll add mine to that.

RP: Well, you know, we just weren’t, I don’t think the Packers were ever, we’re always kind of a little bit behind and it was unfortunate. And I don’t know. You’ve got to have a defense, you’ve got to have a pass rush, and we just need one more big lineman, and you need Clay Matthews back. I know it’s excuses, but you know, you’ve got to stop. You’ve got to make one stop.

HH: All right, enough of football. I just talked football with Fred Barnes, and he’s despondent over Auburn. Look, the BCS bit the bullet…

RP: Yeah.

HH: And the NCAA bit the bullet. They got rid of the BCS. Will the RNC get rid of the Iowas Caucuses? They kill us.

RP: Well look, here’s what I think, and I’m not quite going to take that bait, yet. But let me tell you what I think. I think we’ve got a six month slice and dice festival that’s destroying our party. And so the first thing I want to do is shrink that six months down to 60-70 days. I believe we’ve got to have a death penalty up front for states that want to jump the calendar and elongate everything. So the first thing is you shorten that time frame. You take the convention, you move it from the end of August to the end of June. That compresses the time frame by sixty days. And then obviously, you’ve got to do something about that traveling circus that you and I have talked about so many times on the debates. And I’m serious about this, about our party taking control of these debates, taking control of the moderators, the debate partners. And the way that you do this, and people say well, that’s kind of cute that the chairman keeps talking about controlling the debates, but the candidates are going to do what they want. Well, not true, because we’ve got delegates. And every candidate, no matter who you are, you can have $50 billion in the bank, or you can have two nickels. Every nominee has to have a majority of delegates on the floor. So what do we do about it? We say here you go, guys and gals, here are seven debates. Here are the moderators. Hugh Hewitt’s going to do one of them over here, by the way. That’s a little catnip for you.

HH: We like that.

RP: Here are the seven debates. You can compete in these debates if you want to, but if you compete in a debate other than the ones that are on this calendar, you lose 30% of your delegates every single time you violate. Or better yet, you lose all of them. So you have to comply with this calendar. I think that we’d have to use the leverage that we have as a national party to force compliance.

HH: Well, I love that, but I want to go back to your first line. I’m not going to take that bait, yet. I think you must recognize, as we all do, it’s not that it’s Iowa, it’s that it’s the caucuses, and they’re open, it’s Tuesday night, and it just distorts the process. Can’t you make Iowa do it the right way? If they’re going to be the first caucus, at least close it to Democrats and make sure that it’s on the weekend, and that it’s not run by a very few people?

RP: Well, actually, we did change, one thing that has not been reported, and maybe this is the first place on your show, we did change the rule. And it’s been, no one’s really noticed this. We changed the rule here at the RNC that we don’t allow for caucuses that don’t bind delegates anymore at the Republican National Committee. So if you’re going to have a caucus, or a beauty contest, or a straw poll, you have to bind delegates to the outcome of that contest. One of the problems facing our candidates, Hugh, is that you go to a straw poll, or you go to a state caucus, and you spend all this money to win this caucus, and it turns out you’re not awarded a single delegate. And then you’ve got to come back six months later and fight in that same state that you already spent $5 million dollars winning to make sure that the delegates that you want get elected from that state.

HH: Well, that is a great reform. But the problem remains that Hillary is going to be their nominee, unless Schweitzer gets in and bothers her a little bit in Iowa. And all of those Democrats will come into the caucuses and they’ll vote for Joe Bag O’Donuts, or Jane Bag O’Donuts just to give us heartburn. How are you going to stop that?

RP: Well, for one thing, I think you have to, you have to have compression in the calendar. You have to allow for a candidate to be able to make their case, even if they’re lesser known and don’t have a whole lot of money. But you have to compress the calendar, you have to get to the convention sooner, and you move on. And those are the reforms that we’re putting in place. Now I don’t want to get ahead of myself and where we’re at on the committee on the rules process, because it takes a lot of effort and political horsepower to get this stuff done. But the general themes that you have been talking about are the things that we’re doing at the RNC.

HH: I know, and I’m enthused, but we still have this problem of the Iowa Caucus setup, and is that on the agenda to at least look at what Iowa does to the process?

RP: We look at all the rules that deal with the allocation of delegates and the award of delegates at the Rules Committee of the RNC. We’re having our meeting here in January. We’re going to have another one in May and another one in August all dealing with this very issue. The carve-out states are one of these rules that is being reviewed by the Rules Committee right now. And the carve-outs are Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

HH: So there is a chance that some reform will come to Iowa?

RP: Well, you know what? I don’t, I’m not, I can’t make news here right now, Hugh, on this issue. All I can tell you is that everything we’re doing to reform the primary calendar and the debate calendar is going to be historical, and is going to make the process quicker. It’s going to make sure that we have more control over how our candidates proceed through the debate process. And we’re going to have more control over who’s deposing our candidates, so…

HH: Do you want to make news?

RP: I know I’m being kind of political with you, which normally I don’t, but…

HH: That’s okay. You already made news. People in Iowa will hear that differently. But you want to make news by declaring Cleveland will be the convention city?

RP: I can’t do that, although listen, I’m sure they’re going to be a very strong candidate for the convention.

HH: All right, let me play for you two ads, one in English and one in Spanish.

RNC: So what’s your New Year’s resolution? Here’s one you can keep. Resolve to keep Senator Mark Pryor honest in 2014. President Obama and Senator Pryor said if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it under Obamacare…

HH: And here’s the second one.

RNC: (probably the same thing as above, except in Spanish)

HH: Reince Priebus, I love this. You guys are on the air in Spanish and other languages.

RP: We’re in Vietnamese and Korean as well in other states, and the fact is it’s the lie of the year. People are suffering. The law stinks. We’ve done everything we can as a party to get rid of it. The Democrats won’t do it. So now we’re going to jam it down their throats, and we’re going to beat them in November.

HH: You know, Obamacare has been horrible on Spanish-speaking American citizens. Does that show up, yet? Does the mainstream media realize what a botched rollout it’s been in Spanish?

RP: Absolutely. I mean, you look at even young voters as well. You know, one thing people don’t realize is you know, Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia actually won voters between 18-24?

HH: I didn’t know that.

RP: And it was because of Obamacare. We’re doing better with women, we’re doing better with young people. They don’t like the idea of getting purposefully screwed to pay for other people’s stuff. And you know, between the NSA and security and Obamacare, the young people are coming back to the Republican Party. Freedom, opportunity, equality is new again in America, and the Republican Party is going to champion that.

HH: Chairman Reince Priebus, always a pleasure, Happy New Year to you, and enjoy the playoffs as Browns fans have for decades, from the sidelines.

End of interview.

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