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Reince Priebus: Republicans at Debate to Attack Clinton, Not Each Other

Image: Reince Priebus: Republicans at Debate to Attack Clinton, Not Each Other
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By    |   Wednesday, 05 Aug 2015 09:07 AM

The head of the Republican Party on Wednesday said its presidential candidates are unlikely to attack each other in the party's first official debate but instead are focused on ousting Democrats from the White House.

"Ultimately, the real issue here is Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the fact that the country's really not in a good place right now," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told NBC News, citing the Democratic presidential front-runner and the president.

"That's really ... what the focus is. We're not going to focus on each other," Priebus said on NBC's "Today" program.

Story continues below video.

Fox News, which is hosting the televised forum, limited participation to candidates who reached the top 10 in recent opinion polls, a decision that prompted anxiety among the field given the number of candidates at the bottom of the pack seeking to make the cut.

The Republican focus on Clinton also comes amid a report this week that the FBI is investigating the security of the former secretary of state's private email setup, adding to controversy about how she handled email as the nation's top diplomat.

Vice President Joe Biden, should he enter the 2016 race and win the nomination, would "probably" be a tougher opponent for the eventual GOP nominee to defeat, Priebus also said.

"I think he's probably tougher," Priebus told Savannah Guthrie. "I think Hillary Clinton has a lot of problems. She's an opponent that's easy to define."

He pointed out that Clinton's problems include being associated with a State Department that "didn't get things done overseas," and then she has overall issues that make her easier to campaign against.

"If you look at the polling numbers, even women are really not even gravitating toward Hillary Clinton," said Priebus. "I think Joe Biden is someone a lot of people, whether they like his politics or not, they like him. You can analyze politics all you want, [but] likability is probably the No. 1 issue on the ballot."

Priebus said Thursday's first GOP debate will be a "great night," as it's a "young field" where "everyone brings a little something different to the table."

And while Trump is topping the polls and doing "quite a job," this year's wide slate of candidates includes "governors, successful business people, a neurosurgeon, members of Congress. It's a diverse field," said Priebus.

Trump has been able to rise in the field because many Americans are frustrated with the government, he continued.

"They are frustrated with both parties," said Priebus. "I think Donald Trump's tapped in to that. I know that it's early. I think Donald Trump knows it is early. Everybody understands it. I think it will be a long process."

However, Priebus said, the country is not in a good place, and "Hillary Clinton had a lot to do with it and she has a lot of questions people are asking her, including I think yesterday the FBI is now asking questions of Hillary Clinton. That's what the focus is. We are not going to focus on each other. I think you will see a Republican Party unified, talking about how to get the country back on track."

The FBI has said it's not looking into Clinton herself, but rather into the setup of her email server, Guthrie pointed out, but Priebus replied that "any time the FBI is sniffing around your computers in your home it's probably not a good thing. Who knows what the FBI is looking at?"

Priebus added that he does not see Trump mounting a third-party campaign should he lose the primary election, even though he's hinted that he might if the RNC doesn't treat him "fairly."

"I have had great communication with Donald Trump," said Priebus. "We have had good communication with his campaign. We just don't see it. I think he's a person that wants to win. Obviously winning requires someone to run as a Republican against Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or whoever it is. He gets that.

"Everyone understands that running as a third party is a death wish. I don't see anyone doing that that expects to be a winner in the end. They will just lose and he gets it."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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The head of the Republican Party on Wednesday said its presidential candidates are unlikely to attack each other in the party's first official debate but instead are focused on ousting Democrats from the White House. Ten of the 17 Republicans candidates will be in Thursday night's debate,...
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Wednesday, 05 Aug 2015 09:07 AM
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