Is the nominating process rigged? RNC chairman weighs in

As convention politicking continues to cost Donald Trump delegates, the Republican front-runner has ramped up his criticisms of what he claims is a rigged party system. For more on the GOP’s delegate selection process, Judy Woodruff sits down with Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.

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    Today, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump continued to attack his own party's process for choosing a presidential nominee, a system he says is rigged.

    For more on that, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, joins me now.

    And, Reince Priebus, we welcome you to the program.

    What do you say? Donald Trump has been saying this for days. I heard him say it again in Syracuse, New York, just a few hours ago. What do you say? I mean, this is a very serious charge he's making, that the process is crooked.

  • REINCE PRIEBUS, Chairman, Republican National Committee:

    Well, I don't know how serious the charge is.

    And I'm not sure how much is rhetoric, and — but the truth is, is that the process is the same process it's been for decades. But the reality is, no one actually cared about how delegates were allocated. Each state has the opportunity to choose the method by which they allocate delegates to the national convention.

    Some states have primaries. Some states have caucuses, and some states have actual conventions where delegates are voted on. These are things that have been set in place since October of 2015. All the candidates have been briefed. They have all been aware of the rules. They're out there for the whole world to see.

    There is nothing mysterious about it. And, by the way, no one complained either before Colorado, before the result. It was only after the results did we get a single complaint about the process.



    Well, let me read — you're familiar with this, but let me read you what Donald Trump said about Colorado. He said: "When I joined the campaign in June," he said, "they had a system. He said, "After they saw I was going to win in Colorado, they changed the system." And he said the people in Colorado didn't know that their votes were going to be taken away from them.


    Well, and that statement has been debunked by many people.

    Colorado had a convention the last time. Colorado used to have what we call beauty contests. In other words, there weren't elections. It was a straw poll that didn't award any delegates to anyone, and so it had no value, no use of a straw poll, so they dumped the straw poll.

    And they went to the straight-up convention. So — and, By the way, 60,000 people competed in Colorado in the precinct level contest. Then those people moved to a county contest. Then those people moved to a congressional district contest. And then they moved to a state convention contest, where all the candidates participated.

    They had surrogates speaking. No one along the way said, hey, I don't really like the way this is going. I don't really like this kind of system.


    But it is…


    And now, all of a sudden…


    I was just going to say, but it is the case, if you look at state after state after state, the process is different in virtually every one of the 50 states. It's not a simple thing.

    You have to be some kind of an expert to understand all this. Is it really democratic anymore? And I mean with a small D.


    Of course it is.

    It's the same method that we have been using, and the Democrats use the same delegate method. We're not a public entity. We're an organization that is made up of members across this country and state parties. State parties have a right to determine how each of their delegates get to go to the national convention.

    You know, 150 years ago, delegates ran in the states, and they just went to the convention and they voted, and they set rules and they vote for officers. It's a real convention. It's not a four-day party. It's just that no one ever watches what happens during the day at these conventions, when rules are voted on and there is actual business that goes on.

    It's no different than when the Boy Scouts have a convention…


    But when…


    … or when the Kiwanis have an election. They get together, and they vote on officers and they have an election.


    But when — I think what Mr. Trump is — and others have made this point — that when the person who gets the most votes in a primary or a caucus doesn't end with the most delegates, or at least not a proportional percentage of those delegates, something smells.


    Yes, but they do end up with the most delegates. They do.

    In the case of Florida, Donald Trump won about — in the mid-50s percentage of the vote. He won 100 percent of the delegates. I didn't hear a lot of complaining about that. The reality is, is that the bound delegates that are awarded to the candidates are absolutely bound to those candidates. They don't lose that support.

    They are bound to the candidate, no matter what. Even if they don't like the candidate, they have to vote for that candidate. What the problem comes in that you're hearing complaining about is the unbound delegates, who's getting the unbound delegates. And that is a separate issue.

    That is an issue of each campaign going into each of these states and competing for those unbound delegates. But they're not losing anything, unbound delegates to the national convention, not one thing.


    Well, I think not everybody understands the difference between bound and unbound.

    But I do want to move on and ask you this. Donald Trump's central argument seems to be that the American — I mean, is — that the American system is — political system, is rigged. He talks about, it's the consultants, it's the pollsters, it's the party, what he calls the party bosses who are running things.

    He says the politicians have grown rich and powerful; ordinary people are left behind.

    Do you agree with his really central thesis here?


    Well, sure, I think a lot of people agree with — I think all — I think the actual — all the candidates. I mean, I think those are themes that I think everyone can relate to. So I don't quarrel with that.

    But in regard to whether or not a national party has a right to set the rules as to how a nominee is chosen from a party is unquestionable. I mean, these candidates, what are they doing? They are competing to see which one of these people are going to be chosen by the voters and the delegates of our party.

    One of them is going to be chosen. I'm not competing for one of them. They're competing to join the Republican Party. They can compete to join whatever party they want to join, but if they want to join the Republican Party, then they have to play by the rules of the Republican Party, and I can't imagine any controversy about that whatsoever.


    So, just quickly, then, are you ruling out somebody being chosen, nominated at the convention who didn't run in the primaries?


    They would be chosen — if any — if a majority of the delegates at the convention choose a person to be the nominee of our party, they will be the nominee of our party.

    Now, I find that to be highly, highly unlikely. I have said that many times. Certainly, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have great advantages. But, ultimately, they have to or John Kasich or whoever has to be able to get the majority of delegates on the floor of the convention to be the nominee of our party.

    And we will support that nominee at the Republican National Committee.


    Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, thank you very much.


    You bet.

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