Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was re-elected to a second, two-year term today as his party works to rebrand and rebuild itself following losses in November’s election.
After a 2012 campaign where Republicans failed to defeat President Barack Obama and lost House and Senate seats, Priebus and his fellow Republicans are trying to reshape the party and its message in a way to make it more competitive.
“We must compete in every state and every region, building relationships with communities we haven’t before,” Priebus said in remarks after his unopposed re-election. “We must be a party concerned about every American and every neighborhood.”
The party chairman also called for a more continuous political presence as he acknowledged the superior campaign infrastructure enjoyed by Obama last year.
“As a party, we must recognize that we live in an era of permanent politics,” he said. “Our opponent benefited from a multi-year head start” in the 2012 campaign.
Speaking to reporters later, Priebus said he expects that will be accomplished through “a lot of volunteers and a lot more paid help.”
Asked about proposals being pushed by Republicans in some states, including Virginia, to award presidential electoral votes by congressional district instead of winner-take-all, Priebus continued to express support for the idea.
“It’s something that a lot of states are looking at, and in some cases I think they should look at it,” he said. “It is a state issue, but personally I’m pretty intrigued by it.”
Priebus also responded to a question about a remark made last night at the gathering by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, who said Republicans need to “stop being the stupid party,” and that some of its candidates “damaged the brand” in 2012 “with offensive and bizarre comments.”
“Candidates say things that are stupid, biologically dumb,” Priebus said. “Just because you are the quarterback doesn’t mean that you are calling all the plays.”
He then added, “We want to build a massive party that’s exciting, that smiles, has a good message across America and that’s what you’re going to see.”
In his second term, Priebus, a former Wisconsin party chairman, will have to address the demographic and technological shortfalls with Democrats spotlighted in the Nov. 6 election.
Exit polls of voters showed Obama dominated his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, among single women, Hispanics, blacks and younger voters. The president carried eight of nine states both camps viewed as the most competitive, on his way to winning 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. Republicans have also observed that Obama’s campaign used superior technological tools for fundraising online and getting their voters to the polls.
Among other challenges for Republicans, polls show only about a third of Americans hold a favorable view of the party, angry Tea Party movement leaders have threatened retribution for Republican congressional support of a tax increase passed this month, and activists who thought they would beat a vulnerable president are demoralized.
As part of his speech, Priebus displayed a U.S. map with its states mostly covered in red -- the color designated for a Republican victory -- to show how George H.W. Bush dominated the 1988 election in winning the presidency.
“It’s time to stop looking at elections through the lenses of battleground states,” he said. “Being a blue state is not a permanent diagnosis.”
States that Bush carried in the 1988 election included California and Pennsylvania, which have gone Democratic in every presidential election since then.
In taking the RNC helm in January 2011, Priebus defeated then-chairman Michael Steele, who faced criticism for verbal gaffes and his management of the party apparatus.
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