RNC Chair Reince Priebus Wins Re-Election, And Offers Some Tough Love For GOP
ABC News' Michael Falcone reports:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - GOP leaders granted current Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus another two years at the helm of the party on Friday, and he immediately set an ambitious goal for his second term: "The task before us is transforming the party - to be a force from coast to coast."
Priebus, a 40-year-old Wisconsin native, did not preside over a period that saw a winning Republican presidential candidate, but he did lead his party out of a deep hole of debt - more than $20 million left by the previous party chief, Michael Steele.
And, in large part, it has been Priebus's low-key leadership style and his fundraising prowess that helped win him re-election by a nearly unanimous vote of state party chairs and national committeemen and women from around the country. Friday's vote included little of the drama of his election in 2011 when Priebus fended off a challenge from Steele and a handful of other candidates.
"We have an opportunity and responsibility to shape the GOP of the next generation," Priebus said in a speech at the RNC's winter meeting, but he also offered some tough love for his fellow party leaders.
"It's time to stop looking at elections through the lenses of battleground states. We have four years until the next presidential election, and being a blue state is not a permanent diagnosis," he said, adding: "Simple outreach a few months before an election will not suffice. In fact, I think we should just stop talking about reaching out, and start working on welcoming in. Political support is cultivated over time not collected on Election Day."
Shortly after Mitt Romney's loss in the November presidential election Priebus announced the formation of a committee designed to lead the party into the future. And by March, the members of the "Growth and Opportunity Project" are expected to offer their recommendations to the chairman.
One of its members, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, described the state of the modern GOP as "a tale of two parties," citing the GOP's electoral success at the gubernatorial level and its failures with national candidates.
Among the issues that Fleischer and his counterparts are considering: Enhancing the party's messaging and outreach efforts, drawing more support from minority communities, catching up with Democrats on the digital front and re-thinking the presidential primary process, including the number of debates.
"Twenty debates? That might be a tad too many," Fleischer told reporters this week.
Another member of the team, Mississippi RNC Committeeman Henry Barbour, nephew of Haley Barbour, described it as a "truth-telling committee. " He said that when its work is finished, "Some of it will be public, some of it not so public."
When it comes to the party's approach to electoral politics, Priebus used his re-election speech on Friday to draw a line in the sand: "We are dropping the red and blue state analysis," he said, signaling a new 50-state approach.
He called for his party "to be more welcoming and more inclusive," but insisted that neither of those goals required "abandoning our principles."
"I'm tired of playing defense," Priebus said. "So let's get on offense and stay on offense."