Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the GOP’s victories Tuesday amounted to the “tsunami” he predicted months ago, but predicted a tough road ahead for the GOP if it hopes to win the White House in 2016.
Speaking to reporters at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Priebus said the election amounted to more than just a rejection of unpopular President Barack Obama. “It was also the acceptance of conservative Republican leadership across the board,” he said triumphantly.
Under Priebus’ leadership, the GOP has made historic gains to its data and field programs buoyed by record party fundraising, but he said the bar will be even higher in 2016, when the electorate will be more favorable to Democrats. “I think we’re going to have to be about perfect,” he said.
Priebus, who has served as chairman for four years, said he would likely run for another two-year term to helm the party in January.
"I think we’ve got a long way to go to be ready for 2016," he said. "Granted, we are excited and proud of where we’ve come, but I think we’ve got to be about perfect as a national party to win a national cultural vote in this country. I think the Democrats can be good and win, but we have to be great."
Priebus acknowledged that many in the party are “tired and tapped out” after the expensive midterm race, but said he is confident that the party’s donors will realize they need to keep their checkbooks open. “They’re going to double down on our program because they know that investing in mechanics is the way that we’re going to be able to win in 2016,” he said.
“I think that our early vote program has to decisively beat the Democrats,” he said. “No nominee is going to have $100 million for a data platform, and no nominee is going to have a yearlong field operation. It’s going to take the RNC to fill that void, and it’s going to be expensive.”
Priebus said the GOP is not pulling out any staffers from presidential battleground states, a change from previous elections. “We’re going to have to be three times bigger than we were in 2014,” he said. “I think it’s going to take a massive amount of money and a huge paid program in the battleground states starting immediately.”
In an effort to keep the party as ‘about perfect’ as possible, Priebus indicated he is willing to take an active role in the upcoming GOP primary process to keep the discourse civil and focused on winning the White House. The RNC has already taken steps to compress the primary calendar and has taken control of the debate process to cut down on the number of intra-party battles after the 2012 cycle.
“I think that there is a very strong feeling among the grassroots and among many of our donors that aren’t going to put up with Republicans slicing each other apart,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a high level of disdain for candidates who spend their time trying to destroy other Republicans.”
"I will be less concerned about my own reputation and refraining from being vocal," Priebus added, "with candidates that go out of their way to simply just kill each other."
Priebus highlighted Republican successes in 2014 at reaching out to minority voters, noting the GOP won nationally among Asian-American voters, saying the party will be doubling down on those efforts for 2016.
But Priebus had a stern warning for Obama on immigration reform, calling Obama's promised executive actions "a nuclear threat" that amounts to "throwing kerosene on the fire." "What essentially he is telling the American people is that he doesn’t give a darn about Republicans and Democrats working together," he added, echoing recent comments by Speaker of the House John Boehner and likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
He added that, as party chairman, he remains opposed to marijuana legalization efforts. "As far as marijuana is concerned, I’m opposed to that," he said.
He also took a shot at the likely Democratic nominee for President in 2016. “I sure as heck hope we’re running against Hillary Clinton," he said. "What you just saw on Tuesday night was about as flat of a performance as you could have ever seen from the Democratic Party’s brightest star.”