Reince Priebus, the national chairman of the Republican Party, said today that despite the sweeping victories in Congressional and governor's races across the country, the party still faced an "uphill battle" in its quest to win back the White House.
He said Republicans should neither rest on their laurels nor slip into a false sense of security, or the GOP wave in the midterm election will be a short-lived prize.
"We've got a long way to go to be ready for 2016," Priebus told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington. "We’ve got to be about perfect as a national party to win the national cultural vote in this country. Democrats can be good to win. We have to be great.”
Facing one of the most wide-open Republican presidential races in more than a generation, Priebus said the party needed to move swiftly to find a nominee who appealed to a broad cross-section of voters. He said Republicans should avoid a long and messy nominating process – filled with ideological infighting – and search for a “hopeful” and forward-looking candidate.
“If we have a candidate on the ballot who someone actually wants to have a beer with, we can win,” Priebus said, stopping short of offering names of those he believed would – or wouldn’t – fall into that category.
He said he would try to instill discipline and order in the Republican presidential campaign, saying: “I can’t always control everyone’s mouth, but I can control how long we fight with each other.”
He and other Republican leaders have long talked about the need to pursue immigration reform, which was one of the key findings in the Republican National Committee’s autopsy of the failed 2012 presidential campaign. But he said President Obama bypassing Congress and signing an executive order on immigration would be “a nuclear threat.”
"The president is just throwing a barrel of kerosene on a fire if he signs an executive amnesty order,” Priebus said.
With Republicans winning a majority in the Senate and expanding their control of the House, Priebus said the burden of governing now rests with the GOP. How the party conducts itself over the next two years, he said, will influence the party’s ability to win the White House.
“If all we get out of this is a bunch of fighting and bickering, that’s not a good result,” Priebus said. “Midterm elections are judgments on the past. Presidential elections are about the future.”
While he said it’s far too early to know who would make the strongest Republican nominee, he said he believes the Democratic nominee is obvious and would ultimately help galvanize Republicans.
“I sure as heck hope we’re running against Hillary Clinton,” Priebus said. “If your job was to unify the party, raise a ton of money and get a ton of volunteers on the ground, I promise you, you would want no other opponent than Hillary Clinton to run against.”