Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus rejected the #NeverTrump movement Friday in a speech to party leadership, calling on Republicans to unify by the eventual nominee, whomever it is.
Speaking at the general session of the committee’s spring meeting at a beachside resort in Hollywood, Florida, Priebus used his remarks to explain the intricacies of the GOP nominating process while reaffirming the RNC’s commitment to remain a neutral party in the race for the nomination. He told the 168 members of the committee that if they hope to win the White House, they have to rally behind the nominee after the Cleveland convention, even as more members of the party establishment stake out a position opposed to Donald Trump at all costs.
“It is essential to victory in November that we all support our candidate,” Priebus said. “This goes for everyone, where you’re a county party chairman, an RNC member, or a presidential candidate. Politics is a team sport and we can’t win unless we rally around whoever becomes our nominee.”
“Unity makes the impossible possible. Division makes the possible impossible,” he added.
But Priebus’ call for unity faces challenges from without and within, as GOP candidates have backed away from their pledges to support the eventual nominee. Even as Priebus was speaking, leaders of a stop-Trump super PAC, Our Principles PAC, were meeting with reporters and GOP leaders at a cafe in the resort lobby.
Priebus also fired at shot at Trump’s backtrack on his loyalty pledge, saying of the GOP candidates, “they’re trying out for our team. No one is forcing them to wear our jersey. We expect our candidates to support our Party and our eventual nominee.”
“I know our candidates are going to say some things to attract attention,” he added. “That’s part of politics. But we all need to get behind the nominee.”
Priebus also rejected a frequent Trump talking point that he should be granted the nomination even if he falls short of the 1,237 delegate majority required to win the nomination. “We aren’t going to hand the nomination to anyone with a plurality, no matter how close they are to 1,237,” he said, casting the majority requirement “as American as apple pie or Opening Day.”
Should Trump fall short, he, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich will face multiple rounds of convention balloting. “The balloting process is nothing new to our party—it’s the way we have done things since the 1800s,” Priebus said, noting Abraham Lincoln took three ballots to win the nomination in 1860.
Priebus also pledged to ensure that the GOP rule-making process is fair and open.”Fairness and transparency will be the hallmark of our Convention,” he said. On Thursday, at the RNC rules committee, members followed Priebus’ call to cease efforts to make rule recommendations to the convention to avoid the appearance of trying to influence the selection of the nominee.