Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus speaks at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Saturday, June 18, 2011.
Speaker Boehner endorsed Mitt Romney three floors below us an hour ago —why has the RNC stayed on the sidelines? Is it deference and respect to the other candidates in the race?
Yeah, I think they deserve that respect — for us to hold back to see where this thing goes for the next few weeks. I think it’s important for unity. I think it’s important to show respect for supporters of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. We’re speaking to the Romney campaign. We obviously have that joint fundraising committee with them. We offered it to Rick Santorum, and they were actually thinking very seriously about moving forward with it.
When should we expect the Republican Party to come together?
By mid May we should look for complete unification, but obviously that depends on what Speaker Gingrich and Congressman Paul do.
Have you spoken with either of them?
I have spoken to speaker Gingrich. I haven’t spoken to Congressman Paul himself, but we have spoken regularly to his campaign. I have had very good conversations with the speaker. We’re close. Callista is from Wisconsin. I know that his heart is in the same place as our place and with governor Romney that we have to defeat Barack Obama.
Are you worried that Speaker Gingrich might go rogue?
I think the Speaker is going to be helpful to the party and to the Governor, but I think it’s up to the speaker to decide how to go forward. It’s up to him.
Is the party falling behind Mitt Romney?
I think the unification of the party is coming slowly — and respectfully — and that’s important for party unity. But what you’re seeing as the party is becoming unified and the race is becoming Obama versus Romney — and as that starts happening, I think we’re going to see the polls become very close. This election is going to come down to a referendum on Obama.
Are you worried about things like Mitt Romney’s wealth being an issue in November?
Whether it be tax returns or the Buffett Rule and all of these distractions, if we’re doing our jobs right — if we show the facts as to what Barack Obama said and what he delivered, we win. If we’re bad at that, we lose. And I just refuse to get caught up in this game of small ball that Democrats want to play. This election is about big things.
Do you think that the Hilary Rosen episode was a good use of Republican resources?
That was a case of Democrats being totally over the top, and taking this fictional war on women too far, and we started pushing back on it. The Democrats got defensive. Hilary Rosen got back on TV on the defensive after the pushback. I think what she said also revealed a moment of truth for Obama, the DNC, and Democrats — the view that moms who are staying home somehow aren’t working. And I think the American people who were paying attention to that moment reject that. And doing many interviews a day, not a single person has asked me about this quote on quote war on women, because they’ve lost it. The house of cards has collapsed. I think it was just a defining moment as an example of Democrats taking the small-ball campaign too far, and they got burned, And that’s a good thing, since this election is going to be about jobs, the deficit, and the economy. They got burned trying to make it about something different.
The controversy seemed to unify Republicans behind Mitt Romney.
I think there are a lot of things going on at the same time. I would agree with you that the Hilary Rosen comment helped accelerate the unification of our party behind Mitt Romney. You’re also seeing the natural unification of the party at the same time. That accelerant, dropped into the already unifying party, certainly was very helpful to us — helpful to get us back to what this election is going to be about, which is Obama’s inability to fulfill a basic promise.
Do you think that the primary helped you find the right candidate at the top of the ticket?
I think that the primary has been great for us. I completely reject any off the cuff comment that somehow a little bit longer of a primary was somehow bad for us. I think it was great for our party. We’ve been able to drive out caucus-goers, volunteers, and primary voters and they’re going to come back in the fall. An example of this is Hawaii. It was the first caucus they’ve had since I can remember. They had 50,000 people — and they have a tough job there — 50,000 people came out for the Republican Party and filled out their information cards for the party, where they live and their phone numbers. Now, Linda Lingle is running out there in a race that we can win. Now we have 50,000 people that we can go out there and talk to. If we win the Senate by one seat and one of them is Linda Lingle, who is going to say that the primary was a bad thing for us. It was a good idea. I also think our base wanted to see our candidates fight for the nomination. I think it’s good for the base to see a fight for the nomination, and now we’re going to come together.
This interview has been condensed and edited.