Geraghty: Obviously the answer to this question is somewhere between “none” and “all,” but how much of the blame for the disappointment of 2012 should fall on the RNC?
Priebus: I think if you looked at where we started . . . We started from a standing start, basically, or even worse. We couldn’t make payroll, we were $25 million in debt. One story I haven’t told too much is that when we got here, both of the committee’s credit cards were suspended when we walked in the door. We began paying for [staff] flights and expenses on my credit card.
When you look at where we were and where we’ve come to, I think the RNC has done a good job. But I don’t believe that what we’ve done will be good enough four years from now. I think you can have it both ways — we did a good job with the time we had, but it’s clearly not going to be good enough in four years.
As for the overall question, I think it’s a team. When you say the Republican party, I consider that to be our friends, the candidates, everyone in between — and it just wasn’t good enough. Our job is to figure out what we can do as a team, all of us together, what can we all do better together so that we can have a decisive victory in 2016. That’s something that hasn’t happened since 1988. We can’t just wait for these Tuesday nights every four years where, if one out of eight states doesn’t go well for us, we’re done. We have to figure out what we have to do to give ourselves more opportunities.
Geraghty: You’ve indicated you want another term as chairman, and indicated that you have locked up a sizable majority of RNC members. Is that still the case? Have you run into many critics or RNC members who argue that, because 2012 was disappointing, you have to be replaced?
Priebus: I haven’t run into those people. For the most part, it’s been disappointing to lose, no question about it. I don’t like it. But the response to the job we’ve done has been very good. The committee members support what we did. They know we have a ton of work to do going forward, and they think I’m well suited to spearhead that effort. The measure of success is going to be in how we implement these efforts and in our making sure that we put a program on the ground that does the job a thousand times better than anything we’ve done before.
The job of the party chairman is to lead. We can sit around and point fingers at ourselves and others. Tough beans. Just accept responsibility, come up with a plan to charge the hill, a plan that’s going to motivate our party and get the grassroots engaged and our donors engaged. That’s my job, and that’s the job that I’m excited to take on for the next couple of years.
Geraghty: What’s on the RNC’s agenda in the coming year?
Priebus: Clearly, we want to keep our governors. [Virginia attorney general and expected GOP gubernatorial nominee] Ken Cuccinelli is now unopposed, and we want to make sure that goes well for us, and obviously Chris Christie is a top priority as well. We have two big races, and we want to win both of those.
The panel and what we’re doing in this study is going to give us an opportunity to implement those ideas in those two races. We can do some testing in technology, outreach efforts. We can start implementing those ideas and use them as incubators for what we’re doing with some new technology. We want to win both of those races and use them as a testing ground moving forward.
Geraghty: What do you think of Jim DeMint leaving the Senate to go to the Heritage Foundation?
Priebus: I might see him today, at lunch, and I’ll have a chance to talk to him. I’m sure it’s going to be a real blessing to him and the Heritage Foundation. He’s incredibly talented, really smart, and I think he’s going to be able to continue this movement forward.
We need big voices in places that help shape message, policies, research. I have a ton of respect for the Heritage Foundation, and so I can’t see a downside for them having a guy like Jim in charge of it.