Reince Priebus conducts committee business after he was elected to be the new chairman of the National Republican Committee during the RNC Winter Meeting January 14, 2011 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Reince Priebus doesn’t mince words when it comes to his number one goal as Chairman of the Republican National Committee: “Defeat Barack Obama and make him a one-term president.”
At a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Priebus told reporters, “Hope isn’t hiring in America, and we’re not winning the future,” a thinly-veiled reference to the president’s reelection campaign slogan.“There are times in our lives when we just need to roll up our sleeves and get serious about the issues that are most important, even if it’s not vanilla and cotton candy.” He went on to criticize the president’s leadership style, advising Mr. Obama to “quit giving speeches and start following through,” and accused him of being “in love with making commissions” to tackle the national debt.
Priebus is not as pessimistic when it comes to his own party’s prospects for the 2012 presidential election. He “wasn’t completely surprised” when he heard about Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s decision not to run for president, explaining, “Washington’s full of two types of people — people who want to do something special, and people who want to be something special, and he’s a doer.”
Asked about a recent Washington Post/ABC poll that found only 4 in 10 Republican voters were satisfied with 2012 field, Priebus cautioned, “it’s still pretty early.” He hinted that beyond the field of Republicans publicly exploring presidential runs, “Perhaps some other folks we’re not talking about might get in the race.” When pressed further, he declined to name names, but predicted, “By the end of the summer, we are going to have a pretty solidified field.”
Priebus said he didn’t know whether or not the upcoming May 5 Republican debate would take place, responding to reports that it might be in jeapordy. “Fewer is better,” he said. “Waiting might be better.” He said the RNC still plans to hold monthly debates for presidential contenders beginning this summer, “likely July or August,” that would not restrict participants from taking part in additional debates.
Priebus fended off several questions over false claims by the so-called “birther” movement that President Obama was born outside the United States, saying, “I have no reason not to believe Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.” When asked, he said he was not was concerned about a recent CBS/New York Times poll that found 45% of Republicans believe it.
Despite renewed attention brought to the issue by the support of real-estate mogul and possible presidential candidate Donald Trump, Priebus was skeptical about the role questions over the president’s citizenship would ultimately play in the 2012 presidential campaign. “Trump and the other candidates can talk about it as much as they want,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an issue that moves voters.”
The breakfast was perhaps most notable for its lack of hard news. “My job is to rebuild trust at the RNC,” explained Priebus, and, in a subtle dig at his predecessor Michael Steele’s governing style, to make it “a little less of myself, more about everyone else.” While Priebus’ unwillingness to stray from party-line talking points may be frustrating to reporters, it may also be exactly what the Republican National Committee wants.