RNC’s Priebus says Oklahoma is model for “transformational” Republican Party
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Published: 13-May-2013

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), visited Oklahoma May 13 (Monday). Maintaining “transformational people” are essential for future Republican success, he said the Sooner State has such leaders in Gov. Mary Fallin, House Speaker T.W. Shannon, U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, and U.S. Rep. James Lankford. 

Introducing Priebus at a Capitol press briefing, Speaker Shannon said the pair had met to discuss “growing the party, improving the party.” 

Saying the visit was part of a “Growth and Opportunity Project” (GOP) launched last winter, Priebus told the Capitol press corps, “This is a state that gets it. T.W. Shannon is an example of the kind of Republican we’re looking for to build the party for our entire country. We want to build a party around people like this.”

Last year “was almost like a tale of two parties,” Priebus said. “One is the party in the states that wins almost everything imaginable, governorships, legislatures and other offices. The other is a party that, let’s face it, hasn’t won a presidential election decisively in 24 years. 

We have to be there on the ground. We want to include Hispanics and all Americans. Need a permanent party on the ground. We can’t be a five-month party and expect to win.

CapitolBeatOK asked the Republican leader about “ground game” failures, particularly in Florida where application of voter data to turnout operations collapsed around noon on Election day 2012. He responded, “There is a data-scraping piece, to be sure. 

It’s not so much a data problem for us as it was a data-sharing problem. We’re turning the RNC into a digital operation.”

“Data-scraping” refers, among other things, to the process of searching wide sets of online information to learn voter tendencies and issues that “move” voters. Political analysts credit the 2012 Obama campaign with effective use of the Internet and data; Mitt Romney’s campaign much less so. 

In a story for Salon.com, Lois Beckett took note of the “big data” embrace taking place at the RNC and reported: “Obama’s data team … generated individualized predictions about voters. The team calculated, among other things, which people were most likely to be persuaded to support Obama based on a conversation about a certain policy issue — information that then allowed field organizers to be more strategic about the houses they visited and the phone calls they made.”

Priebus maintained, “Let’s be honest. The DNC (Democratic National Committee) is not our competition. Our competition was Barack Obama in the presidential campaign. They had a very good data-scraping operation.”

In a follow-up, CapitolBeatOK asked Priebus how he and other leaders might avoid the “echo chamber” effect of the 2012 election’s closing days – when evidence against GOP euphoria was discounted or ignored. He replied:

“Go back and look at the 1988 electoral map. That’s where we start. We make ourselves competitive everywhere or nearly everywhere. Now, we’ve got a carnival game set up, one that we can’t win. Our question is how to get blue states back into the red column. It seems to me it’s blocking and tackling. Be there at community events. Be in the neighborhoods. Don’t take anything for granted.”

In 1988 – with George H.W. Bush as the nominee – Republicans carried 426 electoral votes, winning Vermont, California, Florida, Ohio and much of the northeast U.S.

Also at the Capitol briefing were Oklahoma’s RNC members, Steve Fair and Carolyn McLarty. Priebus praised state Republican leaders, including Fair and McLarty, saying Oklahoma “didn’t happen overnight. You’ve had several leaders in a row, who built a solid operation over time. These people understand you have to have infrastructure, messaging and operations.”

Priebus also pointed to his hiring of Matt Pinnell, the former state chairman who guided the historic 2010 surge. For several years the youngest Republican state chairman in the U.S., this spring Pinnell was hired by the RNC to focus nationwide on state party effectiveness. 

One reporter asked about whether divisions among Republicans might limit future prospects. Priebus replied, “we don’t want to have a party where there’s no room for conversation. On immigration, whether you agree with him or not, (Florida U.S. Sen.) Marco Rubio is leading a conversation that matters. We’ve got a party that’s willing to lead.

You know, presidential elections are about politics and policies. They are also about culture. Every presidential election is a cultural election. Presidential elections are huge cultural events. We want to be big and bold.” 

Priebus challenged the current presidential primary structure. Further, he said, “I’m not sure we want to continue with presidential debates where people who are responsible for making news are the moderators.”

He praised Shannon as “an example of the kind of Republican we’re looking for to build the party for our entire country. We want to build a party around people like this.” He said the Lawton Republican would be traveling as part of targeted efforts to expand the GOP base. 

Concerning 2012, Priebus asserted it was “was almost like a tale of two parties. One is the party in the states that wins almost everything imaginable -- governorships, legislatures and other offices. The other is a party that, let’s face it, hasn’t won a presidential election decisively in 24 years. We have to be there on the ground. We want to include all Americans.

You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.


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