Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says he hopes Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2016 but admits his party’s operations will need to be “about perfect” to beat her.
Republican gains in Tuesday’s election in the Senate, House, and governor’s races showed “the acceptance of conservative Republican leadership across the board,” Mr. Priebus argued.
Buoyed by the results, Priebus told a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters that he was “leaning to do it again” and run for a third term as party chair. He was first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2013.
Priebus also appeared to toughen his party’s stance on comprehensive immigration reform.
He called the president’s pledge to take executive action on immigration by year’s end without waiting for Congress to act “a nuclear threat to reject the basis of the separation power doctrine.” The chairman said Republicans “will have to convene about whatever possible options we have to stop it, whether it be the courts, whether it will be legislation.”
After the 2012 election, Priebus commissioned a study on why the party failed to win the White House. The “Growth and Opportunity Project” called for the party to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” But Priebus said the president’s promise to act on his own has “created a situation that I think may have not existed before” and has “galvanized the country in a place where I don’t believe most people are interested in comprehensive immigration reform unless they are convinced that the border is secure.”
Republicans hope to run against Clinton given what Priebus said was her lackluster performance helping candidates in 2014.
“I sure as heck hope we’re running against Hillary Clinton,” he said. “‘What you just saw on Tuesday night is about as flat of a performance that you could have ever seen from the Democratic Party’s brightest star.” For example, both Bill and Hillary Clinton campaigned in their home state of Arkansas for Sen. Mark Pryor, who was defeated by Rep. Tom Cotton.
A Clinton candidacy would also energize Republican voters.
Priebus was candid about the challenges his party would face in 2016 taking the White House given the larger voter turnout in presidential elections. “We’ve got a long way to go to be ready for 2016,” he said. “We’ve got to be about perfect as a national party to win a national cultural vote in this country. I think the Democrats can be good and win, but we have to be great.”
To that end, Priebus said he plans to have a “full blown field operation” up and running by March 2015 in the key states of Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. For the election just past, the GOP made a two-year, $100 million investment in identifying and reaching out to potential Republican voters. In the coming presidential election, Priebus said the data effort would need to be “three times bigger than we were in 2014. I think it is going to take a massive amount of money and a huge paid program in the battleground states starting immediately.”