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RNC chair: We won’t advance Obama’s agenda, but we’ll seek common ground

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    With resounding victories coast to coast at every level of government, our next guest had reason to celebrate last night.

    Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. And he joins us now.

    Welcome.

  • REINCE PRIEBUS, Chairman, Republican National Committee:

    Hey. Thank you for having me.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And congratulations.

    Was last night's victory due to the weakness of Democrats and their message and the candidates, or was it due to the strength of Republican candidates and their message?

  • REINCE PRIEBUS:

    I think it was a little of both.

    For number — number one, I think we did put great candidates out in the field. And that's first and foremost what you have to do. But I think what really happened last night was pretty stunning. And you hit on it very well. On one hand, President Obama and his policies were totally repudiated, and so was anybody connected to those policies. So, that's the first piece.

    The second piece was, is that the governors, the Republican governors that were advancing conservative governing principles were all embraced, whether it was in Maryland, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, you name it. So not only was the president rejected. Republican principals were embraced.

    The last thing I would tell you that is important is that we beat the Democrats on the ground. I mean, the vaunted Democrat ground game, while they did a good job, we did a little bit better and we beat them at their own game. And I think that's a big story coming out of last night.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, I want to ask you about that night, because after the last elections, you embarked on what you yourself termed as an autopsy of why the Republicans didn't do well. Is what we saw last night the fruit of that autopsy?

  • REINCE PRIEBUS:

    Well, right.

    And what we got out of that report was that we needed to be a party that wasn't just an organization that showed up once every four years a few months before the election, or we didn't want to be a party that is just a U-Haul trailer of cash for a presidential nominee.

    We had to be a party that was obsessed with the mechanics, the data, the ground game, all the boring stuff that most people never want to talk about. But that really is the way that you have to win these elections. And we just did a much better job. And we either beat the Democrats on the ground or we at least brought them to parity in places that they were used to — they used to steamroll us in some of these states, but they didn't yesterday.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, that's certainly true.

    There are a lot of mechanics which obviously go into politics, but for a lot of Americans, this frustration was about Washington and about what Washington was or wasn't doing. How much of that do you take to heart as you take over the majority, not only in the Senate, but broaden your majority in the House, in state legislatures, in governor's mansions?

    This is going to go pretty deep.

  • REINCE PRIEBUS:

    Yes, I think that's true.

    I think that people are tired of a lot of things in politics and maybe all of it. But I think that's why one of the things that the president should do is say, OK, I'm going to go to Harry Reid's office, soon to be McConnell's office, and I'm going to go through these 260 bills that are there, and I'm going to tell these Republicans, here are the bills that I'm willing to work with you on and start that way, because there's clearly got to be something the president would be willing to work with us on out of 260 — 360 bills sitting there.

    So we can pass a budget. As you know, you do not need — you don't need the president's signature to pass a budget. We can work on the Keystone pipeline and a lot of other things that I think would help get the economy back on track.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It's interesting that — first of all, I wonder if you think last night was a mandate.

  • REINCE PRIEBUS:

    Yes. It was an — it was absolutely a mandate. It was a mandate really opposing the principles and the policies of Barack Obama, because he himself made it about his principles.

    It would be one thing if I — Gwen, if I was just spinning some political spin. But the president actually went out of his way multiple times — and he was irritated with these Democrats that were running for Senate. And he went out of his way to say, no, no, no, my policies are on the ballot. You all supported these policies.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But I guess my question is whether it's a mandate for you to do something or for you to just wait for the president to do something.

  • REINCE PRIEBUS:

    Oh, no.

    Well, I think it's incumbent on everyone to try and work together. I mean, there's no question. I think it's a mandate for everybody. And I guess that goes back to your question a couple of questions ago, which is, do people expect Republicans and Democrats to work together? And I think the answer to that question is yes.

    But what I'm suggesting to you is that we can't erase the fact that the election yesterday was a repudiation of the president's policy. So we're not going to work to advance the president's policies, but we are going to work with the president to see where we can find common ground to get the country back on track.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, I think you could use some sleep right now. Thank you.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • REINCE PRIEBUS:

    Yes. Thank you.

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