RNC Chair Reince Priebus joined me to begin Super Tuesday II coverage:
HH: We start with a guy who set it all up, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Reince, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
RP: Hey, Hugh, happy to be back on the show. Hope you’re doing great.
HH: I’m going great. I love days like this. Let me begin by saying to all those who think that there’s chaos reigning, thank God for Reince Priebus and the RNC, because if you guys hadn’t taken the number of debates down from three dozen to 12 to 14. It would be a nightmare. We’d be all lying around exhausted right now. Number two, we wouldn’t have a roadmap. We’ve got a roadmap. Number three, we’d have a convention in August, and now we have an early convention with time to repair whatever damage is done by this. Thank you for all that good work, Reince Priebus.
RP: Well, hey, I appreciate that, Hugh, and you know, you’re totally right. I mean, we went from a national primary to a little bit of proportionality, to now we’ve got a couple of winner-take-all’s tonight. And we’ve also introduced conservative media into the debate. I mean, I think people forget, you know, when we first started this thing, the only thing we were starting to think about doing was controlling the number of debates, having a set calendar, and starting to have a say over the moderators. And you know, we didn’t want to have Chris Matthews up there like we’ve had. And suddenly, now, with 20 million people watching, we ended up with some leverage, and we made sure that we had some conservative voices on the stage. And I would suspect that four years from now, and RNC chairman is going to have even more authority to make sure that the debates are even better. But I’m pretty pleased with that.
HH: Well, congratulations to you, Sean Spicer and the incredible team and all your committee men up there. I’ve got to ask. You announced another Fox News debate yesterday. Are there more CNN or even an NBC debate out there?
RP: Well, I’m not sure. I mean, obviously, the debate committee here is going to discuss it, and you know, I think how the election keeps going makes a big difference. You know, you have to be flexible. I, we originally scheduled, you know, 12 debates. Salt Lake City would be 13, and it’s obviously more than we originally anticipated, but we also have to be flexible enough to understand what you’re dealing with. And I don’t think anyone thought we were going to have 17 candidates. And you know, we’ve got some drama and some intrigue, and so we’ll wait and see what happens, Hugh, but I will tell you and the listeners that we’ve got to be flexible based on what ends up happening, who drops out, and what the race looks like. You never know. If it becomes a two or three person race for the next month or month and a half, then you probably would have to look at other debates. So it’s just something that we’ve got to keep on top of.
HH: Now Chairman Priebus, I also want to talk about the announcement you gave at the last debate. I was on stage, so I don’t know if it was carried, where you said the party will support the nominee. And I don’t think you can stress that enough, because a lot of people think there’s intrigue going on at Sea Island. And you know, I was at Sea Island. That’s like the least intriguish place ever to be. What is, you know, just repeat it for our audience. The party will support the nominee.
RP: Well, it’s so basic.
RP: I mean, you know, the people out there that are trying to stir up all of these stupid controversies that somehow or another we’re all sitting around at some DC restaurant trying to put rules together, look, the only way this is going to work is if we play this straight up, open, honestly, and whoever ends up becoming the nominee and getting the majority of delegates is going to be the nominee. And if someone can get the majority of delegates before Cleveland, they’re going to be the nominee. There is no undoing 1,237 bound delegates at the convention. So all of that silliness is just a bunch of bunk. So now people move to the next question. Well, what happens if no one gets to the 1,237? Well, we’ll wait and see what happens over the next few weeks. But if that happened, then the same thing. You’ve got to just play it up. You go to your balloting, and you have the delegates vote. And whoever the delegates vote for is going to be the nominee, period.
HH: Well, let’s turn, then, to whoever that nominee has to face. It’s likely to be Hillary Clinton. I want to play for you three clips, Chairman Reince Priebus. This is, the first clip is Hillary Clinton speaking at the funeral of Nancy Reagan about how the Reagans were out front on the AIDS crisis.
HRC: Remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s. And because of both President and Mrs. Regan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation when before, nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it. And you know, that, too, is something that I really appreciate with her very effective, low-key advocacy. But it penetrated the public conscience, and people began to say hey, we have to do something about this.
HH: And here is Hillary Clinton two days ago talking about coal.
HRC: We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim?
HH: And here is Hillary Clinton speaking last night about Libya.
HRC: So yes, I mean, Libya was a different kind of calculation, and we didn’t lose a single person.
HH: Now Reince Priebus, the Reagans did not lead the battle against AIDS, that she wants to destroy the jobs of coal miners, and we lost four great Americans in Libya. She’s trying to spin all three of these things. What do you make of her?
RP: Well, I think she just keeps adding to the idea and the feeling that Americans have, that they don’t trust her. But on that issue of the AIDS thing itself, I thought you were going to play another clip where she went, she said negative things about the Reagans and their work on AIDS. I mean, she’s all over the map. And this Benghazi piece where she says nobody, we clipped that, and we sent it around, and obviously, they’ve been responding to it. Look, I think she’s flailing, and if you look at what happens tonight, she loses one or two states again tonight to Bernie Sanders, she is going to be in for the long, long haul. And remember, from my standpoint, Hugh, this is a big deal, because the Democrats do things differently than we do. They build the infrastructure, the mechanics, the ground game, the data operation, they build that around the campaign side. We build it around the RNC piece, so that whoever the nominee is, is going to plug into what we build. My point, Hugh, is that if she doesn’t have the ability to then now worry about voter registration numbers in Florida and Ohio, and data build-outs for Colorado because she’s busy trying to beat Bernie Sanders in a race that she never anticipated, and you’ve got the DNC that’s basically completely broke, and that’s just not my opinion. They’re broke. They have a huge problem, because we are actually the biggest we’ve ever been in decades at our party. We’re going to have a nominee. I know it’s been drama-filled, but it’ll happen. They’re going to plug into something very big. Hillary’s got problems. She’s all over the map. She’s not trusted. And what about the FBI?
HH: Right. She’s a AAA candidate trying to win the Triple Crown in the Major Leagues. But she’s on rehab down in AAA. She can’t get out of this nightmare campaign, and so she can’t compete with us. I think it’s a perfect storm, if the Republicans don’t blow it. So take me back to Cleveland. I’ve been looking forward, as you know, I’ve been lobbying for a Cleveland convention for a few years with you, like every time you showed up, and here it’s coming.
RP: And you sold me on Cleveland.
HH: Yeah, and now all of these outside groups will be there to try and disrupt it. Are you already working with the city fathers and mothers to make sure that it’s a wonderful time in Cleveland like it was in Tampa Bay and St. Paul?
RP: Absolutely. I mean, we’ve got over $50 million dollars committed to the security of the convention. The mayor there actually is a very good person to work with, and is totally committed to making sure that this, the city and the party shine in Cleveland. We’ll be all over that, Hugh. And I can assure you we’re going to do everything we can to make that convention not just a memorable experience to the people there, but most importantly, to showcase our nominee and our party to the rest of the world. So we’re ready for that, and I’m sure it’s going to be a great week, and we’ll do everything we can to make, to limit all of those things from happening.
HH: Now Reince Priebus, I began by complimenting you on the rules changes you shepherded through. Now I want to end on a personal note. It’s a wild ride this year. Are you keeping a journal? Are you making notes, because this campaign will be studied for a hundred, two hundred years?
RP: Yeah, you know, for the first time in six years as chairman, I draft up a little memo at night, and either put it in a book or do a little voiceover on my iPhone, and just kind of record some of the funny moments of the day. And I can assure you that it is some fun stuff. But you know, a lot of people tell me, oh, you’ve got a tough job, or you had the worst job in America. I hear that a lot. But you know, if you’re a kid growing up in Wisconsin, you love politics, you became the chairman of the RNC, and you have a front row seat to watch this election cycle, and I’m doing everything I can to be communicative to all of the candidates, to be fair and to show our cards at every step of the way, you experience and see a lot. And it’s quite the ride, that’s for sure.
HH: I’m glad you’re taking those notes. I look forward to reading the book. Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, thank you.
End of interview.