Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus stressed that the GOP establishment and tea party are on the same team.
In this Jan. 24, 2014, photo, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is seen at the RNC winter meeting in Washington. The dueling faces of a conflicted political party were on display for all to see at the just-concluded RNC meeting. The reminder of the divisions comes a year after Priebus published a report aimed at modernizing the party and boosting its ranks, and as Republicans eye their best chance at taking control of both houses of Congress since 2002. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP Photo/Susan Walsh
“I have a role to play there to, which is to build up everyone in our party. It means being for Ted Cruz. It means being for Mitch McConnell. It means being for Ron Johnson,” Priebus told reporters and bloggers Thursday.
“When Ted Cruz went down to the floor, you might remember within two minutes we had an email out that said we stand with Ted," he continued. "This is a national party. The reason is, we're for all the Republicans in our caucus. We don't pick winners and losers and so I'm hoping that people are starting to see that.”
Priebus talked about several matters, including the rift inside the party, reforming the presidential primary system, and becoming a “full time party,” rather than hitching a “U-Haul trailer of cash” to a presidential candidate every four years.
The chairman said it is important that in trying to expand its appeal, the GOP does not forget its core supporters.
“A party has to grow where we're weak and has to grow where we're strong,” Priebus said. “I think that sometimes we spend too much time talking about where we're weak and forgetting about the fact that we also have to explain to people that we have to grow in places we're strong.”
He referenced the party's pro-life plank as a strength.
“I will tell you personally, the RNC going to the March for Life was a little bit of a wakeup call for me as chairman,” he said. “The total appreciation we got from life groups across the country was overwhelming. But it was the appreciation that sort of woke me up to say why are these folks so appreciative of something that I thought was a pretty easy decision to make?”
“So I thought to myself, if these folks are this appreciative of something this simple, maybe we should start reminding people about the core positions of our party more so that we can grow in places that we're strong,” Priebus said. “For me it was sort of a wake up call, what can we do better? What we can do better is remembering, you've got to grow where you're strong too. Not just talk about where you're weak.”
After a Washington Post/ABC poll found 57 percent support for gay marriage, Priebus reaffirmed the party's support for traditoinal marriage when asked about it.
“We're a party that believes marriage ought to be between one man and one woman,” he said. “That's our party platform. What I've also said though is that we need to treat each other with the greatest dignity and respect. That's not code language, that comes out of the New Testament.”
The party's reforming of the presidential primary system is already in place, he said. This will involve shortening the primary system to about two months, reducing the number of debates and including more conservatives as debate moderators.
“I just happen to believe that six months of us slicing and dicing each other before an Iowa Caucus that doesn't award a delegate is a joke,” he said.
He said that 23 debates between Republican primary candidates is too many and he'd prefer fewer than 10.
“But the bigger thing is we need to pick the debate moderators and debate partners and not the other way around,” he said. “I'd rather have you asking about the future of our party and candidates than someone who's been working for Democrats their entire lives. This to me is not an establishment takeover. This is using your brain. I want people who give a darn about the future of our party asking questions. That's fundamental.”
He said his preference would be for a rotating regional primary system, but doesn't see that happening.
“We'd have a regional primary every two weeks and we'd be done in six weeks and it would be over. That would be the system I would draft,” he said. “But I don't think it would pass.”