Interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

Interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

By Erin Burnett Outfront - August 20, 2012

BURNETT: Now Democrats were then quick to make this about the coveted women's vote. The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, quote, "The real issue is a Republican Party led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong. I'm outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the dark ages."

So seizing one comment and turning into something about the entire party, but the thing is, is this isn't a small problem for Mitt Romney because he currently trails President Obama by eight points among women voters. So if this gets traction among them, it could matter. So take a look at this. In 2008, women made up 53 percent of the electorate and they voted for President Obama 56 to 43 percent over John McCain. You move that by a few points and you can win the entire election. I'm going to show you those numbers in a moment.

But now Democrats are trying to link Akin's position on abortion to that of Paul Ryan and this is where it gets dangerously close to home for Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan, along with Akin, co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act. It's a so-called personhood amendment and he did so as recently as 2011. Now that bill made no exceptions for rape or incest or anything else. Now Paul Ryan himself in terms of his personal views on abortion has long said he is opposed to abortion in all cases, except for when the life of the mother is at risk, meaning he's opposed to it in the cases of rape and incest. This is not something that Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney want to have become a major issue.

Never mind that Ryan and Akin are now linked by the fact that they were co-sponsors of the bill on this topic. So what will the Republican Party do? OUTFRONT tonight, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Good to see you, sir. I know not what you want to be talking about right now. But let me just say, so Senator Scott Brown, Senator McConnell they've all come out, called it outrageous or saying that Mr. Akin should step out of this race within the next 24 hours.

Tea Party Express has urged him to step aside. Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is saying get out. We're not going to give you more money. He could get out by the -- by Tuesday before the general election. That's tomorrow. Should he get out?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, certainly, you know first of all, if it was me and -- I wouldn't say anything that dumb as he has. But if it was me and I had an opportunity to let someone else run to actually give ourselves a better chance of winning, I would step aside. And so, listen, what he said, Erin, was biologically stupid. It's something that nobody on either side of the aisle agrees with. It's a bizarre statement and it's something that I think he needs to seriously think about. And like I said, if it was me, I would step aside and let someone else run for that office.

BURNETT: All right, so I mean you're making that pretty clear. The answer is, yes.

PRIEBUS: That's pretty clear, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, I think all right --

PRIEBUS: Pretty clear.

BURNETT: I just want to make it loud and clear. It's my job, make it painfully obvious. But let me ask you this then -- so what can you do? I mean you've heard him say -- you know he's saying now he doesn't plan to get out. Obviously he's got 24 hours. He can still do it. But what are you going to do to get him to make the right choice? Who's going to make those calls to him?

PRIEBUS: Well I mean ultimately he has to make these calls, I mean right? I mean we all understand that. I mean and so we're hopeful that he hears these things that people are saying on both sides of the aisle and that this is not mainstream talk that he's referring to in his descriptions of whatever an illegitimate rape is -- you know that's not even something that we could conceive of. BURNETT: Yes.

PRIEBUS: So we're hoping he hears these things and you know so we're here down for our convention. Obviously we're getting ready for a big election and this is not what the election is going to turn on, Erin. This is going to turn on the president's promises, what he delivered, where this economy's at and these are the things that people care about. But in the meantime, we've got to deal with this situation and we are.

BURNETT: All right, so let me ask you this because I want to make the point first of all, something you know painfully well. But I want to put it up here. The latest Gallup poll registered voters' choice for president, and this is broken down by gender. So right now, the president leads among women 50 percent and trails among men. So women, 50 percent plan to vote for President Obama, 42 percent for Governor Romney. Now, when you just do the math on this, it comes out to statistical edge between women and men that this election would go for Barack Obama. If you move the women vote by one percent, statistical edge goes to Romney. If you move it by two, he wins the whole thing. So women really matter, right? I mean this issue of abortion -- I mean this --

PRIEBUS: Oh of course --

BURNETT: I know you don't want the whole thing to revolve around this. But if it did, it could mean the whole election.

PRIEBUS: Right, but, Erin, I think you're making a false assumption here. And that is that you're making the assumption that women are pro-abortion. And I don't believe that. I actually think that most women are pro life. And so I happen to believe you can be pro women and pro life. And so I think you're making sort of a logical leap that isn't really based on fact. Maybe there are other reasons for the outcomes of these polls. But you're assuming that it's because of abortion and I just don't believe that.

BURNETT: OK, well let me -- let me -- hold on.

PRIEBUS: So I think you can be pro life, pro women and at the end, what women really care about is the economy and where we're going in this country.

BURNETT: All right. I agree with you, you can be pro life and pro women. But let me give you this --


BURNETT: -- because I do have more numbers for you. Paul Ryan co-sponsoring with Akin the amendment that said abortion should not be allowed in any case. And Paul Ryan has made it clear, right that he thinks only in the case of the life of the mother. So not in the cases of rape or incest that's what we know about Paul Ryan. Gallup poll taken in June of last year, abortion in cases of rape or incest, 75 percent of Americans think that should be OK, so that means --

PRIEBUS: Listen --

BURNETT: -- in this dramatic case, most people, 75 percent of Americans of whom I'm sure a lot are women, do not agree with Paul Ryan.

PRIEBUS: Well first of all, that's not true. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney's position is that they're pro life with the exceptions of rape, incest and the life of the mother, but --

BURNETT: Well that's Mitt Romney and I know --

PRIEBUS: -- the bill that you all keep --

BURNETT: -- Ryan's on the ticket --

PRIEBUS: No, no, no that's not true --

BURNETT: But Paul Ryan's position historically has been, according to CNN's reporting --

PRIEBUS: No, that's not true --

BURNETT: -- that he does not support it in the cases of rape or incest.

PRIEBUS: Well first of all that's not true. But the point that I'm making is that what you're referring to and what these reporters are referring to in this bill is the question of whether or not you should be able to use taxpayer money to fund abortions. That's a totally separate issue. And on that issue, that's an 80 percent winner for us. And so you know you can pick and choose all these numbers all day long.

The fact of the matter is most women are pro life. This election is not coming down to this particular Todd Akin issue. We're very proud to be a pro life party and we are and I'm pro life. And I think it's a winning issue. But the problem with Todd Akin is that he's taken it to a level that no one in the mainstream is in agreement with. And you're seeing both parties say that.

BURNETT: And so the bottom line is you say that -- I understand your point on Todd Akin, that you think that he is not -- is not something that anyone would support in the mainstream and I would imagine he's not welcome at the Republican Convention where you are right now either.

PRIEBUS: Well listen, if it was up to me, Erin, I will tell you, I would prefer that Todd Akin do the right thing for our party and our candidates and I would prefer him not come.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much, Chairman Priebus. I appreciate taking the time. Hopefully next time we'll be able to talk about the economy which I know is what you wanted to talk about. 

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