RNC's Reince Priebus: GOP field to solidify by summer

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, at a Monitor breakfast on April 26, discussed budget cuts, the 'birther' issue, and his reasons for running for the RNC's top post.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 26.

Republican Party chief Reince Priebus was elected Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman in January, succeeding the controversial Michael Steele. Mr. Priebus, a lawyer, was the guest speaker at the April 26 Monitor breakfast in Washington.

His priorities as party chair:

"My job ... for the next few months is to rebuild credibility and trust at the RNC.... I have and I had a lot of work to do.... We have had some significant hurdles. We had a very low cash on hand [balance].... We had over $24 million in debt, and I had to get to work immediately."

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His motivation for running for RNC chairman:

"I would not have run for chairman of this party if the only thing I was concerned about is the future of the Republican Party. That is not enough for me to worry about.... In my heart I am worried about the future direction of this country.... We are in a fiscal mess ... and I believe that Barack Obama is largely to blame for the mess that we are in because he is not addressing the problems."

Reports of negative voter response to the Republican budget-cutting plan drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin:

"I disagree with the premise. I don't see the Ryan plan as being deeply unpopular. I see it as being very popular on the premise that we need to address in a serious way the fiscal trajectory and the economic realities in our country.... Depending on who is asking the question and how it is being asked, I think perhaps you can get a different outcome. But I think that the American people are satisfied."

When the field of Republican presidential candidates will jell:

"By the end of summer, we are going to have a pretty solidified field.... I think that many people are going to feel compelled to get into the race and make a difference in our country and in this world."

Whether he might referee squabbles among GOP presidential candidates:

"Certainly there are times behind the scenes when ... you want your candidates to play well in the sandbox. But the reality is you have to allow everybody the opportunity to be who they are."

The Democratic president he most admires:

"Maybe JFK ... [for] setting out bold goals, thinking great things – no limits to what greatness our country could achieve."

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