The Organizer: How Reince Priebus Got the Convention (and the GOP) Back on Track

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RNC chairman Reince Priebus

Tampa

Most Americans have probably never heard of him. Those who have still can’t pronounce his name. But he is the official leader of the Republican Party, and the GOP’s face here in Tampa this week — at least until Mitt Romney takes the stage on Thursday night. And for Reince Priebus, it has not been much fun.

The Republican National Committee chairman had hoped to “launch this week on the right tone,” as he put it in a morning conference call with reporters on Tuesday, touting his party’s virtues and fine-tuning “the buildup to the nomination of Mitt Romney.” The reality has been less appealing. Priebus has been a glorified meteorologist, chronicling storm system Isaac and its impact on the convention schedule. The politics hasn’t been easy, either: on Monday, Priebus had an on-air confrontation with MSNBC host Chris Matthews, prompting the RNC chairman to declare Matthews a “jerk” in a subsequent interview. And he has had to look over his shoulder at disgruntled Ron Paul supporters who might cause a ruckus on the convention floor.

For all the headaches, Preibus — his first name rhymes with pints, and his last is pronounced Pree-bus — has mostly won the admiration of his party’s delegates and operatives. Though he’s not the slickest public spokesman the GOP has known, Preibus has been an effective behind-the-scenes operator and fundraiser. He wins particular credit for turning around a party apparatus that was left in near ruins by his predecessor Michael Steele, who alienated staff members, donors and party leaders while leaving the RNC with an astounding $23 million in debt.

Steele might have been a better presence on television. (He has since found a second career as an MSNBC talking head.) But in addition to his failures as a manager, Steele also aggravated party insiders with his undisciplined public speaking. Where Steele was something of a pundit-in-waiting, Priebus — a lawyer by training — takes a more cautious, methodical approach. “I’ve watched my mouth and stayed on message,” he told the Huffington Post last week. (Steele, for his part, is an odd presence in Tampa, largely unwelcome and unloved among the party faithful he led just a couple of years ago. “I have not been invited to the convention at all,” he told the Washington Examiner.)

At 40, Priebus is strikingly young for a party chairman (although his age seems less striking when you consider that Paul Ryan is only 42). Originally from Kenosha, Wis., he ran and lost a race for state senate in 2004, then headed the Wisconsin GOP before serving as the RNC’s general counsel under Steele. One Republican operative with experience in Wisconsin says Priebus distinguished himself with an ability to unify the party establishment and its restive Tea Party wing and is doing a similarly effective job at the national level.

Perhaps most important — certainly from the Romney campaign’s perspective — the RNC under Priebus has again become a well-oiled fundraising machine. The 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform law that banned massive soft-money contributions to the national parties redirected huge political donations to outside groups like American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove in 2010. But individual donors can still give $30,800 to party committees and their state and local affiliates. Since April, the Romney campaign and the RNC have conducted a joint fundraising operation that is now raising money at a clip of more than $100 million per month. (Click here to see a joint Romney-RNC fundraising invite, complete with convoluted details about donation limits and how the money will be distributed to a slew of state parties and GOP campaign committees.) To help facilitate this operation, a senior RNC staffer often works from the Romney headquarters in Boston. A former RNC chairman, Ed Gillespie, also happens to be a top Romney campaign adviser.

For the moment, however, big-dollar fundraising is taking a backseat to the mundane details of nationally televised stagecraft. On his conference call on Tuesday, Priebus walked through the day’s agenda and logistics, noting the importance of “making sure that delegates are properly seated.” Much as he has done at the RNC, Reince Priebus is looking to impose order on a convention that has opened in a state of disorder.

31 comments
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dspaugy
dspaugy

Why didn't the GOP leadership have a stump speaker equivalent to President Clinton speaking for Governor Romney? How could you underestimate the Hispanic vote so miserably? Governor Romney was unable to connect due to poor speech writing and poor events. Governor Romney did his part and the GOP failed.

Eugene Hunst
Eugene Hunst

Sir:  You have a very big job straightening out the GOP and with that word, I have something I want to drop on you.  You have a bad actor in boehner.  I witnessed his drunkedness the other night in Tamp, stumbling all over a word and finally blurted it out and then almost fell while walking to the stage.  This is what America does not need and does not want.  Boehner has failed us miserably, has turned in an obama lover as he claims he is a good guy - I don't care about the imposter being a nice and good guy.  Me and many more want him IMPEACHED, BUT ,  boehner and other R-Congressman do not want to be bothered with this.  Boehner even shuned Sheriff Arpio and would not work with the Sheriff.  If you do not get rid of boehner or find some guts so he can uphold the Constitution that all the politicians in DC wore to uphold and defend, the GOP just may not take back the White House.  He is one sorry rich boy cry baby that has shown the American people he is in politics to get rich.  I doubt if you will even see my comments but if you happen to catch a glimpse of my bellyaching, I would like for you to take a very serious look at boehner.  Thanks.

Richard Giles
Richard Giles

How can we trust Romney-Ryan to "fix" anything?  Their concentration is on giving the people subterfuge and deceptively serving only the few.  Saying that "big government" is at fault and is the cause of our problems is the deception and is the intentional cover-up of what actually needs to be fixed.  Reducing government spending and the deficit are important goals but they aren't what caused our problems and focusing there won't ever solve the problems.  What really caused our problems, in every case, is permissive, co-responsible politicians catering to "the money", their strong supporters, who exploit their advantages and who with run-away greed, gross dishonesty and self-indulgence caused repeated crises in savings and loans, banks, dot.coms, manufacturing, the mortgage, investment and financial industries, as well as corporate corruption (like Enron) and with very costly industrywide failures, always with 'the few" taking enormous gains and leaving the costs and lost jobs to the majority; that is simply obvious in any objective and rational view of what we have literally experienced.  Romney, Ryan and the Republican / Tea Party are owned and controlled by "the money' and they are totally obligated to produce policies that serve only the 1%, which won’t ever help the 99%, no matter how rationalized.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Guess he's busy massaging these guys. Such a shocking amount of money. I only hope it doesn't buy an election.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

A shame that Obama and Holder gave Karl Rove a pass for all his crimes.

Apparently, going after whistle-blowers was (and is) a higher priority.

~

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Not sure what they could have prosecuted Rove for - Bush and Cheney, yes.

It was Patrick Fitzgerald that had Rove in his sights for the Plame matter.

gysgt213
gysgt213

These days you don't need an entire election. Just a enough of your people in the right places.  The return on investment is too good. Big Pharma alone has a ROI of 75,500 percent for the lobbying dollars it spends to bar the government from bargaining for cheaper drug prices through Medicare. http://unitedrepublic.org/2012...

gysgt213
gysgt213

RNC chair Reince Priebus opened up the convention on Tuesday with a jab at President Obama's private sector experience compared to Mitt Romney. 

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"He hasn't even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand," Priebus said. 

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What a friggin tool Priebus is.

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http://livewire.talkingpointsm... 

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Seems as though the Ronulans are staging a floor fight over the new rules. Probably making Reince glad this part isn't being broadcast.

AlistairCookie
AlistairCookie

Obama may have never run a garage sale, but he has 4 more years of on the job experience than Romney does!

Snark aside, it would be refreshing if politicians, the media, anybody, would stop pretending that private sector business experience magically prepares a person for public office.  Just like pretending that our economy is just like household finances, or a business' finances.

jmac
jmac

I've heard of him - I watched him  as Matthews hit him in the gut - and he mealy-mouthed back Republican talking points.   That's all the GOP has - Luntz talking points as Romney's Neil Newhouse proclaims, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."   

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

"The politics hasn’t been easy, either: on Monday, Priebus had an on-air confrontation with MSNBC host Chris Matthews, prompting the RNC chairman to declare Matthews a “jerk” in a subsequent interview."

It always pisses-off a liar when he's called-out. Maybe that's why Beltway hack "journalists" (no need to name names here) never do.

filmnoia
filmnoia

I hope what Matthews did to this big brown mattress stain of the RNC yesterday becomes  something we see more of in the next two months.If the MSM can't find the gonads to do it, then it will fall to guys like Bill Clinton, who ,I suspect, will next week in Charlotte, call Willard out directly on the lies of his campaign. If the Dems don't do it next week, when they have a big audience,  they then become worthless.

ERenger
ERenger

"Reince Priebus is looking to impose order on a convention that has opened in a state of disorder." 

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Yeah. Good luck with that. He better hope he is good in a fistfight, because I predict a brawl. 

filmnoia
filmnoia

Chicago in 1968 was great theater, but there won't be any brawl in Tampa. The DNA of the GOP is primarily authoritarian in nature, so it virtually prohibits any disagreement. Paul and his supporters will be treated as necessary minor irritants, with just minimal deference shown. By Friday morning an illusion of a united party will be shown to the press.

Kimmee Sun Woo
Kimmee Sun Woo

I am aware of the race-baiting RNC chair. He comes across as disingenuous, smug, and unprofessional.

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

Is this the same guy who hates Europe, doesn't think African-Americans are real Americans and denigrates anyone who might require some aid from the government at some point in their life, to feed their children or other selfish "Liberal" things like that? He and Romney must be really miffed at the "guvment" helping out those in the track of the hurricane. Maybe they can denounce that activity tonight?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Bobby Jindahl complains that the federal hurricane aid he got wasn't enough. I'm sure he's on the case again. Perhaps he'll give it all up for some good old liberty and freedom from the government?

jmac
jmac

Priebus:  "Mitt Romney has to win for the sake of the very idea of America.  Mitt Romney has to win for liberty and freedom.  We have to put an end to this Barack Obama presidency before it puts an end to our way of life in America."

Palin in pants.  Nothing to be proud of, just showing how low in the gutter the party is willing to go to get the base vote.  

gysgt213
gysgt213

"Michael Steele, who alienated staff, donors and party leaders while leaving the RNC with an astounding $23 million in debt.

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Steele might have been a better presence on television—he has since found a second career as an MSNBC talking head. But in addition to his failures as a manager, Steele also aggravated party insiders with his undisciplined public speaking."

.

I cannot believe I am saying this.  But, is this really fair to Michael Steele?  Certain elements within the GOP started attacking Michael Steele days after his election as head of the RNC.  There was  shady business going on with the RNC's finances long before Steele got there and when he did get there one of the finance guys was forced to resign as a result.  His main crime right out of the gate was a comment about Rush Limbaugh perceived as an insult.    As a matter of fact days after his election Politico did its part by publishing an article where they let a lot of anonymous GOPers take pot shots at Steele.  Steele even had to play the race card to defend himself.   I'm linking to a good time line on this subject.

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http://www.aolnews.com/2011/01... 

ERenger
ERenger

I don't think Steele was very good at his job, but he was RNC Chairman during the 2010 wave election. You'd think he would get some credit for that. But the GOP has decided that success was despite Steele, not because of him. 

Kimmee Sun Woo
Kimmee Sun Woo

LOL...he alienated donors because Republican money men didn't want a rotten minority coming to their homes.  I mean think about it, you join the GOP to because you are anti-minority, a bigot with money, you hate the fact that now white men have to compete with freaking blacks and Hispanics for jobs.  And the GOP makes a chair from the  very ethnic group that the GOP has been demonizing for 40 years from Nixon to Reagan to Lee Atwater to Sarah Palin? No...you can imagine the disdain.  Steele had to go!

gysgt213
gysgt213

The difference in standards is very striking.  Renice has accomplished nothing yet.  However, if he was in charge during 2010 after the gains by the GOP would anyone be talking about debt at the RNC?  I don't think so.

jmac
jmac

Apparently he's accomplished something that reporters admire - bringing in the big bucks as his party teeters on the right-wing cliff.  Adelson just gave someone half a million to win a congressional seat and he's given over 30 million to PAC and Romney as he says one hundred million isn't off the table  - give the man a gold star.  

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

His parents coulda come up with Mark or Rance or Bob, but NOOO....

ERenger
ERenger

This is a case where name is destiny. Reince = RNC. Think of him as "RNC Preibus." Or if you prefer, "RNC Pubis." 

AfGuyReturns
AfGuyReturns

Best one I heard was that, if you take ALL of the vowels out of his name, you're left with...

RNC PR BS