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Priebus retains Republican support despite losses

GOP leaders show confidence

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LAS VEGAS — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus retains a strong base of support from top GOP officials despite the party's losses in the Nov. 6 election and the breakdown of the Romney campaign's vaunted voter-turnout operation in key swing states on Election Day.

GOP governors gathered here for their annual meeting had heaped praise on the former Wisconsin GOP chairman before this year's vote for his efforts to rebuild the party's moribund internal machinery since taking over the RNC in January 2011. Most of the GOP governors, whose numbers grew from 29 to 30 in the recent vote, said they were sticking with Mr. Priebus, who was not attending.

So far, 42 of the state GOP chairmen and elected national committee members who make up the 168-member RNC say they will back the chairman. The party's top congressional leaders, including House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have also privately conveyed support for Mr. Priebus to run for a second two-year term, The Washington Times has learned.

The support comes despite the shock and recriminations the party has experienced since Mr. Romney's loss to President Obama on Nov. 6, and amid sharply declining support for the party in such key constituencies as women and Hispanics. The party also lost a net two seats in the Senate, despite many more Democratic incumbents being on the ballot.

The chairman of a major swing state that failed to go for Mr. Romney last week said privately he is unsure about supporting Mr. Priebus and needs "to hear more about what Reince will do about appealing to women, Latinos and on concentrating on economics, not social issues."

Mr. Priebus is said to be preparing a two-year plan and a four-year plan for broadening the party's base among Latinos, Asians, blacks and women, and reformulating the GOP's message without sacrificing its basic principles on personal freedom and free markets.

Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere sent a memo to fellow RNC members criticizing the party's get-out-the-vote failures Nov. 6 and failure to attract more minorities, women and young voters. A few RNC members and some activists not on the national committee are urging Mr. Villere to run against Mr. Priebus, but he said he remains behind the incumbent.

"I definitely will support Reince if he decides to run," Mr. Villere said in an email Wednesday.

American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas, a former Florida GOP chairman who has been mentioned as another possible candidate for party chairman, also gave Mr. Priebus a vote of confidence, saying in a phone interview that "Reince has done a good job in rehabilitating the RNC, and the Nov. 6 turnout problems had nothing to do with him or the national committee."

Many here say the blame for the disastrous malfunctions in the GOP's get-out-the-vote efforts on Election Day lay with the Romney campaign and the consultants and vendors it hired. Going into the election, several of the GOP's top fundraisers told The Times that the Romney campaign had completely taken over the RNC's ground-game plans and programs for targeting voters and getting them to the polls.

Mr. Priebus, by contrast, is credited by many with reviving the party's funding base and cultivating donors alienated by the RNC leadership under previous party Chairman Michael S. Steele.

Tennessee RNC member John Ryder credited Mr. Priebus with having "turned the RNC around and restored its ability to be part of the Republican effort. If we didn't win everything this year, it was despite the best efforts of the RNC and Reince Priebus."

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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