The Unforgiven: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Says Florida Must Pay the Price for Moving Primary

By Gregory Simmons
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Oct 25, 2011 5:00am

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Gregory Simmons report:

The 2012 political calendar may now be set, but Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says Florida will not be forgiven for messing with the Republican primary schedule.

“There is no discretion. There is no coming back. There is no kumbaya that’s going to happen. They’re going to lose half of their delegates and that’s a pretty serious penalty,” Priebus said during an interview with ABC News’ “Subway Series with Jonathan Karl.”

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You can watch more “Subway Series with Jonathan Karl” HERE.

Florida officials’ decision to move the state’s primary date to January 31st set off a domino effect among other early states. After months of uncertainty and consternation over primary calendar front-loading, a tightly packed Republican nomination process finally solidified over the weekend when Nevada’s Republican Party voted to move its caucus date from Jan. 14 to Feb. 4 — a move Priebus lobbied hard for.

Priebus says the way the calendar has shaped up is a win.

“You should be saying thanks. You’re welcome,” Priebus told ABC News. “This should be totally positive. Forty-nine out of fifty states, including six territories, followed line by line the RNC rules.”

But the states that chose to shift primary dates up — Florida, South Carolina and New Hampshire — will arrive at the Republican National Convention with half as many delegates. That means half as many votes for the presidential nominations and half as many passes to the convention floor — even though the convention will be held in Tampa, Florida.

“The penalty is there. The penalty is going to stick. That’s all there is to it,” Priebus said.

While primary calendar politics has dominated Priebus’ public efforts in recent weeks, a stated goal since he took over has been raising money to reduce the party’s $14 million debt he inherited from former chairman Michael Steele.

“I think we’ve turned the corner,” Priebus said of his fundraising efforts. “I think the donors are coming back to the RNC. I think that if you look closer at our numbers I think you’ll see we’re running a very functional, operational party.”

The RNC raised $9.3 million last month, surpassing their August total by more than a million. Priebus says the national party’s ability to raise money is crucial in competing in a presidential election — especially when competing against a fundraising powerhouse like Barack Obama.

Priebus called the president’s economic policies “an absolute disaster for America.” Asked directly if he agrees with those in the tea party movement who call the President a socialist, Priebus refused to directly answer.

“This president can’t stop spending money and thinks that stimulus plans are the way to spend our way out of economic trouble, and I don’t think the answer is to take other people’s money in massive amounts,” Priebus told ABC News.

Priebus says the Republican Party’s disdain for the president will, in the end, unite a currently divided GOP electorate around the nominee. When asked about the increasingly brutal battle for the Republican nomination, Priebus said the bruising — and maybe bloodying — is a part of the process.

“This is nothing new,” Priebus said. “I think the primaries are a good thing for our party. I just happen to think it gives us all the horse power.”

Priebus says nothing he’s seen so far, including the physical exchange between Governor’s Perry and Romney during the most recent Republican debate, has crossed the line.

“I think there are going to be punches in primaries,” Priebus told ABC News. “I think our voters will look at it and if there is something over the line you pay a price for that. If it’s not, you move forward.”

Priebus is convinced the Republican Party will coalesce quickly around whoever of the current field is nominated.

“I think everybody is on the same page as has been said numerous times on that [debate] stage that any one of [the candidates] are better than this president,” Priebus said.

All of these candidates have signed pledges to support our nominee. I think we’re going to end up beating this president because we’re going to have a better candidate.”

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