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Interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

Interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

By John King, USA - April 20, 2012

YELLIN: The Republican National Committee met today in Arizona and welcomed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who spoke privately with members, and he was later introduced by the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, the Senator John McCain.

The theme of the event, unity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am so gratified to see our party coming together in a solid team that is going to elect him president of the United States.

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We want to welcome you in a formal way to a great family.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's good to see so many old friends. Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So Romney is the presumptive nominee, right? That may be jumping the gun a bit.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told "The National Journal" yesterday, "This Tuesday, I think, is probably going to be a defining moment for our decision-making as to whether or not we forward with a declaration of Mitt Romney being the presumptive nominee," he said Tuesday.

Reince Priebus joins me now from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Hi, Reince. Thanks for being with us.

Today's event was supposed to...

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: ... Jessica.

YELLIN: Today's event was supposed to help the Republican Party behind Mitt Romney. Why wait until Tuesday's primaries to call him the presumptive nominee?

PRIEBUS: Well, out of I think respect and deference to Congressman Paul and Speaker Gingrich.

We're still talking to all the candidates. We have a little bit of different deal here. We have got to follow some rules. And I think also just, like I said, out of respect for them, it's important for us to continue talking and just making sure that we're moving slowly.

We're communicating with all the campaigns, obviously, but I think Tuesday's important.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: So does that mean after Tuesday you will ask Gingrich and Paul to end their campaigns?

PRIEBUS: No, I don't think I would ever do that. I would let Mr. Paul and Gingrich decide on their own what they want to do.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: Why? You're the party leader. Isn't it your role to step in and ask these campaigns to end to help Romney seal the deal and move forward?

PRIEBUS: No, I don't think so.

I think it's up to our -- it's up to our primary voters to help them and others make the decisions as to whether or not they want to stay in or not. It's a combination of momentum. It's a combination of delegates. It's money. I mean, it's all of those things.

But, ultimately, winning and losing matter in these primary battles. And that's why Tuesday's important. So, I actually think the opposite, Jessica. I think, in this country, I think people are tired of folks in Washington telling them what they should do and what they shouldn't do.

And that's why we let this process play out. And I think actually it's been going very well. You know, I think, if you look at how the governor's doing, he's doing well. The party's getting pretty well unified. But we have got a few more days or weeks to go.

YELLIN: OK. On that, CNN is reporting that RNC members and state chairmen had to sign a form pledging to support Governor Romney at the national convention before they could attend a private event with him today.

Three Iowans apparently refused to sign that loyalty pledge. Is that concerning, that some refused to sign? And is that really the way to win over party leaders?

PRIEBUS: Well, no, I don't know a whole lot about that, actually, Jessica.

I think the Romney campaign had their own event for their own supporters, and they were doing some things there. But, actually, the folks from Iowa did actually end up taking their picture. And it wasn't a big deal.

But -- and there are some party rules actually, Jessica, that don't allow informal endorsements prior to declaration of a presumptive nominee. So that formality means something in a lot of states. And that's really the reason why some of this stuff goes on. It's not really out of, you know -- out of disloyalty or anything like that. It just has to do with party rules in different states.

YELLIN: OK.

Let's look ahead to the general election. You wrote an op-ed in Politico this week saying President Obama is not doing enough for Latino voters and that -- quote -- "Latinos also face an unemployment rate that is higher than the national average."

But look at this. In the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, 69 percent of Latinos support the president, compared to 22 percent approval for Mitt Romney. That is huge ground to make up for your presumptive, likely presumptive Republican nominee.

How do you do that without major changes in policy?

PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, first of all, I wouldn't quarrel with you, Jessica. We do have a lot of work to do.

And so I think what we have is a couple things. One, top-line messaging matters. And I would say that even people who don't agree with us politically would at least agree that in regards to jobs and the economy and where we sit today, the Republican Party's in a much better place to make the appeal with Hispanic voters as to the direction of our country.

We have got better messengers, Marco Rubio, Luis Fortuno, Susana Martinez, Brian Sandoval. But I think , for the committee, what we need to do is to -- and what we're doing by rolling out Hispanic victory centers around the country, Hispanic victory directors around state parties, and what I'm telling you is that we need to communicate on the ground in Hispanic and Latino communities across America.

And we haven't -- we have not done a good enough job in doing that. And that's why we're rolling out that now. And I think you're going to see that gap shrink tremendously over the next few weeks. 

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