Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that his party’s presidential candidate won the Oct. 3 debate with President Barack Obama and that he expects another strong performance from the former Massachusetts governor at the next debate on Oct. 16.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Welcome back. We’re joined by the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. Mr. Chairman, Republicans are ecstatic. Mitt Romney dominated the debate last week. But I looked at a little bit of history. Ronald Reagan got clobbered in 1984 in his first debate, George W. Bush clobbered in his first debate in 2004, and it didn’t make any difference. They still went on to win. These things really don’t matter much, do they?
REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, I think they do matter quite a bit. But, you know, the difference between those examples was - and President Obama was that, you know, I mean, the president just didn’t look like he was ready to fight. He was meandering. He was - I would say - slightly boring. He didn’t look inspired at all.
I think there’s a big difference. I mean, the fact is, it was Romney who looked presidential. It was Romney that had the passion, and it was Obama just looked annoyed all night.
And that being said, though, Al, I’ll take a small piece of your leading question and tell you that we’re not so cocky not to think that - that was Wednesday, and now we’re in the weekend, and we have to win every day. It’s not good enough to just have one great night, and it was a great night.
HUNT: Well, let’s look ahead then?
PRIEBUS: But when you’re trying to beat an incumbent, you’ve got to keep winning the day. You can’t just look at one event.
HUNT: Next big event, Biden versus Ryan next Thursday. What are the expectations?
PRIEBUS: Well, I think - you know, listen - and I’m not playing coy here. I do think that Biden has - he’s gifted in rhetoric. Now, he goofs up quite a bit, but, you know what, if he keeps his head together, he is very good on his feet, and he’s a clever person, and I think he’s a likable guy. And so that’s why I just would never undersell Joe Biden at all.
That being said, I’ve seen Paul throughout his entire career. He’s extremely bright. He’s got command of the issues. I think it’s going to be a very interesting evening, and I expect that Paul is going to have a great night. I’ve seen him have a lot of good nights. And I’m excited about next Thursday in Kentucky.
HUNT: Let’s talk about the unemployment rate, dropped to 7.8 percent. Now, that’s the same rate Obama inherited. It’s not - it’s still a very high unemployment rate, but it shows in a promising direction. Isn’t that good news for the Democrats?
PRIEBUS: Well, I think direction’s important. And I think that it’s better for our country to be moving slowly in this direction than the opposite. But I’ll tell you that, I let the economists argue about this, you know, household polling that was done as compared to the payroll poll. The fact is, though, Al, what matters most is that, what do people in Ohio feel? What do people in Wisconsin and Iowa feel?
And the reality is, is that they’re not jumping up for joy because the rate went from 8.1 to 7.8. And they’re not arguing about how the calculation was made. Life just - under Barack Obama - just hasn’t been as he promised it would be. And that’s really the issue.
I mean, really, what the issue on the table is this. One, did Barack Obama fulfill the mission of his presidency? Did he meet the promises that he made? And the second piece is, what - what is the alternative? And that’s what I think Governor Romney did so well back at the debate on Wednesday, when he laid out his vision?
HUNT: Would you expect . . .
PRIEBUS: . . . as well as prosecuting the president.
HUNT: Do you expect to see the same Mitt Romney and the same Barack Obama, then, in the next debate?
PRIEBUS: Ah, you know, I mean, I think you’re going to see the same Mitt Romney, because it’s the same Mitt Romney I’ve been seeing for two years, including 20-some debates of our own that we had in our primary. He’s a very good debater. He’s a smart man. He’s passionate. He’s got a command of the issues.
And I think what you saw him do was give the American people the respect that they deserve to come into a very important debate with passion and details and plans.
HUNT: So we’ll see that figure again?
PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, it is who he is. It isn’t like a show. I mean, it is what it is. That’s who he is. Now, whether - what Obama is, is another story.
HUNT: Does the RNC treat Todd Akin’s candidacy any differently than, say, George Allen or Tommy Thompson or any of the other Republican Senate candidates this year?
PRIEBUS: Well, you know, one thing to keep in mind. I mean, the senatorial committee focuses on a Senate race. When we have a presidential cycle - the reality is, we’re the people that fund this army on the ground. And so what happens in a presidential year is, with all of the resources spent on the ground and turning out Republican voters, it helps every Republican, whether it be in Wisconsin, Virginia, Missouri, wherever, every Republican is assisted by the fact that we are getting identified Republicans into the polls and ultimately ballots in the box. And that’s what we do.
HUNT: Let me ask you about your home state of Wisconsin. Every recent poll there, including one done by some reliable surveys that show Scott Walker winning, show Obama-Biden up by 10 or 11 points and Tommy Thompson trailing. Badger Land looks blue.
PRIEBUS: Well, I don’t know if that’s going to hold up. And I’m not one for whining about polls, so you’re not going to hear me whine about it. I will tell you that there’s no way in the world, Al, that we would be spending millions of dollars - in fact, I’ll be in Wisconsin tomorrow campaigning with Paul Ryan - there’s no way we’d spend that kind of money if we weren’t in play, and Obama wouldn’t be in Wisconsin yesterday and - and a week before that if Wisconsin wasn’t close.
I guarantee you, Wisconsin is going to be tight. We’re committed there. And, you know, quite frankly, both sides are committed there. And so we’ll just wait and see what happens with these polls, but I don’t think you’ve seen the end of it.
HUNT: You know, the RNC and DNC have had two totally different strategies. They funneled out a lot of money early to state parties, while you all have held back, but now you have a lot more cash than they do, for a late drive. Which strategy do you think is going to prove smarter on November the 7th?
PRIEBUS: Well, let me - Al, let me just push back on your premise a little bit. Last month and the month before that - I think it was last month or the month before that - it’s the same trend, you can go look at it - the DNC spent $21 million. We spent almost $50 million. We’ve been outspending them and outraising them for months and months and months.
So I don’t think they spent money early. I just don’t think - I just don’t think they’ve spent it wisely. I don’t really care about that. Our deal is that we’re funding the biggest ground operation in the history of the RNC. We’ve already made more phone calls and more doors than all of 2008. And our goal is, in places like Ohio and Virginia and Florida, we’re going to make twice as many phone calls and door knocks, personal contacts, than all of 2004 and 2008 combined.
PRIEBUS: The only thing we can control is our own goals and objectives, and right now, we’re going to crush our records, and in turn I think we’re going to crush the Democrats on the ground.
HUNT: And I know - I know you’re an optimist, Mr. Chairman, and you think that you’re going to win the White House?
PRIEBUS: You have to be.
HUNT: . . . and the Senate and the House. And I accept that. Let me ask you this. Give me a surprise. Give me a race where conventional wisdom says the Democrats are going to win and Republicans are going to wake up on November 7 happy.
PRIEBUS: I think those two races are going to be the surprise.
HUNT: Mr. Chairman, as always, thank you so much for being with us.
HUNT: And when we come back, what the latest jobs numbers tell us, and Kate and Margaret’s presidential predictions. The last word right after this break.
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