The 2012 presidential election is a must-win for the conservative movement and for the country, Reince Priebus, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, tells Newsmax.
To that end, Priebus is looking to raise at least $400 million, including $100 million to fund the national nominating convention in Tampa.
“President Obama is absolutely beatable, but most importantly, it’s a must-win for the conservative movement in 2012,” Priebus says. “My view is that we are absolutely involved in a battle for freedom in this country, and whether it be Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey, or here in Washington, this president is driving our financial train off a cliff.”
Based on the current spending levels, the cost of running the government will be 42 cents of every dollar earned in America, Priebus says.
A lawyer from Wisconsin, Priebus served as general counsel of the RNC under Chairman Michael Steele. He broke with Steele over questionable spending, including payments to aides assigned to arrange the coming nominating convention. Within a week of taking the job, Priebus, 38, fired the aides.
To oversee the transition, he appointed two veteran political operatives — Ed Gillespie, a former RNC chairman and adviser to President George W. Bush, and Nick Ayers, who ran the Republican Governors Association.
Priebus has a self-deprecating manner, works long hours, and has made it clear he has an open-door policy.
“I've got a bizarre name, but I’m about as normal as they come,” Priebus says. “I always tell people it’s what happens when you have a Greek and a German who get married. It’s a bit of a disaster.”
Priebus’ first name rhymes with pints, as in pints of his favorite beer, Miller High Life from Wisconsin.
Priebus views Republicans as being part of the conservative movement, rather than the other way around.
Priebus notes that while Obama’s approval ratings remain respectable, “If you ask the question, do you believe that this government has to get spending under control, the answer is clearly yes. Is this a president who has been responsible with spending and debt and deficits in this country? The answer would be no, he hasn’t.
"I think the issue for us as Republicans is to make the case, that’s backed up by facts, which is that a smaller government equals a stronger economy, and a stronger economy equals more jobs.”
As chairman, Priebus says, “I need to lead in humility, to be a little less about myself and a little bit more about everybody else, and to restore trust and confidence in this party.”
At this point, the RNC is $23 million in debt.
“We need to restore trust and credibility among our donors,” Priebus says. “We need to show our donors that we’re serious about watching where every penny is being spent, and that our money is being used to elect Republicans across the country and to help elect a presidential nominee in 2012.”
Obama has vowed to raise nearly $1 billion for his campaign, Priebus says.
“Besides the convention, which is probably about a $100 million endeavor, we’re going to have to raise probably another $300 million over the next two years,” Priebus says.
Priebus says he spends four to five hours of every day on the phone raising money or meeting with donors. Prospects report getting calls from him from his RNC office on Sunday evenings.
“I’m so impressed that I’ve gone back to work for him and the RNC,” Mel Sembler, a shopping center developer and former ambassador and party finance chairman, tells me.
When asked about the dissension that manifested itself among conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Priebus says, “I think that we all need to be going in the same direction.”
In the end, Priebus says, “This isn’t about the party any more. This is about the future of our country. The issues that involve our economy right now are so important that I think that all of us need to be working together to address that and hopefully make a change for the better here in 2012.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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