Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the nation’s shaky economic outlook and record debt will spell defeat for President Barack Obama in 2012 while giving Republicans “a mandate” to present its alternative to voters.
The party chairman, chosen in January, predicted the field of prospective Republican presidential candidates will narrow by summer’s end, and the race will be shaped in large part by whether voters are satisfied with the country’s economic direction.
“There’s an economic vulnerability and dire problem that Barack Obama is largely responsible for in our country,” Priebus, 39, told reporters at a breakfast in Washington today sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
He said he was “confident” that Republicans will field a viable candidate and “that person will present a very clear choice and difference on those issues of jobs and debt and deficit. We’ll have to wait for our nominee to make that case, but I think we’re in a good position to.”
Priebus said he isn’t concerned that Republicans’ drive for deep spending cuts and message of austerity -- in contrast with Obama’s talk about “winning the future” -- will turn voters off.
People “are very worried about the future economic solvency of our country, and that there are times in our lives when we need to just roll up our sleeves and get serious about the issues,” Priebus said.
Not ‘Fun and Games’
“Some of it isn’t fun and games, and you can’t keep -- as the president does -- talking about hope and talking about winning the future when, number one, hope isn’t hiring in America, and we’re not winning the future, we’re losing the future,” he said.
Priebus, who in January defeated previous party Chairman Michael Steele and others to become RNC chief, said he spent his first months on the job working to shrink the organization’s financial shortfall and restore its “credibility” after a tumultuous two years. That included a staff overhaul, fundraising, and embarking on a “goodwill ambassadorship” with major donors, party activists and leaders, members of Congress and reporters.
He said he has reduced the RNC debt, which topped $24 million when he took over, to less than $20 million. Party members had said that Steele neglected major donors during his two-year term. He also was criticized for public statements such as one that the conflict in Afghanistan, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was a “war of Obama’s choosing.”
Priebus said that looking ahead, he’s far more concerned with the economic debate and rebuilding the party organization than with the controversy -- fed most recently by real estate developer Donald Trump, who is flirting with a presidential run -- over whether Obama was born in the U.S. Obama was born in Hawaii, yet some Republicans have questioned whether he is foreign-born and ineligible to be president.
“I’ve got better things to worry about,” Priebus said. “Trump can, and the candidates can talk about it all they want, but my position is that the president was born in the United States, and I don’t think it’s an issue that moves voters.”
Priebus, who began as a local Republican activist in Wisconsin and became state chairman in 2007, said while he might be prepared to step in if his party’s primary campaign became nasty, he won’t weigh in on the positions taken by Trump or any of the party’s other prospective presidential candidates.
“It’s up to the voters around this country and our primary voters to make a decision as to who and what presidential nominee they want us to nominate,” Priebus said. “It’s Donald Trump’s right to get on TV and say whatever it is that he wants to say, and it’s up to the voters of this country to choose a nominee.”
--Editors: Laurie Asseo, Robin Meszoly
To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Washington at Jdavis159@bloomberg.net.
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