Party Chairman Begins Fight to Expand GOP

Barrington M. Salmon | 3/18/2013, 8:18 a.m.

"We have to do everything we can to compete with the Obama Machine," Priebus said during an earlier interview. "I believe that the other side has created a community-based, granular campaign coast-to-coast. We have to improve our chances in 2014. We didn't just get here overnight."

On Face the Nation Sunday morning, Priebus said it's essential that the GOP inject itself into communities nationwide. At the same time, the party has to change the way it presents and sells itself and allow people to see the true face of the party. All too often, he said, Democrats do a much better job connecting with voters on issues that resonate with them. He elaborated on that point during the exclusive interview.

"We must communicate a more positive, broader message that voters can connect with emotionally," he said. "In order to start winning presidential elections, I think we have to start winning over people's hearts," Priebus said. "It's an emotional vote and it's a cultural vote. I think at times we divorce ourselves from the culture. We shouldn't."

"I think we have to do a better job relating issues to people's lives. When you're talking about the debt, for example, it's not just a matter of mathematics. It's what happens in your life," Priebus said. "We have to relate things in people's lives and we have to win the math war. We're going to have to learn how to win the heart war and that's what is plaguing our party in presidential elections."

The chairman acknowledged that Republicans have been known to execute "get out the vote efforts four months before an election", while Democrats can draw on the long-term relationships they've cultivated over time in local communities to carry them to victory.

"It's a granular approach to what we need to be doing as a party," he said. "We must organize voter registration, go to swearing-in ceremonies and always be promoting others to help us as well. This is multifaceted. And again, you've never seen this level of commitment from the RNC. It's a huge deal."

Priebus said it makes sense to be operating at the grassroots level if only to avoid some of the problems that plagued Romney and other Republican candidates like Missouri's Todd Akin.

"If you're not interacting with people and there isn't a level of comfort or familiarity, then ... the caricature becomes true if you're not there."

Republicans are still feeling the sting because of the recent presidential election loss. Victory seemed assured due to an anemic economy, high unemployment figures, a vulnerable incumbent and historic Republican gains in 2010. But the victory that Fox News commentators and GOP analysts predicted melted away fairly early on the evening of Nov. 6.

To that end, Priebus said two proposals the RNC plans to implement are to shorten the primary process and move up the convention.

"Our candidates are killing each other because our primary process is way too long," he said, while the other side is consolidating its position "by spending potentially hundreds of millions of dollars on data, technology, voter outreach ... actually getting the job done."

Party leaders will look at the political calendar, consider reducing the debate calendar and putting in mechanisms that ensure that the GOP nominee goes into the general election much stronger and with more time and a better chance to attempt to succeed in the general elections.

Priebus promised to continue working until the goals identified by the report and party members are attained.

"We want to be big and bold," he said. "Our legacy will be that as the RNC chairman, I turned talk into action and made lasting changes to people and the party. This is not a short-term view, this is not a short-term job. I promise you I don't have a short view on this. I don't believe that there's some magic pixie dust that's going to change everything overnight.

"But I do believe that if we work hard, tell our story, get community-based, finance something that's big and bold, that we can move the numbers in a significant way for us in the future. And it's not just to move the numbers - it's the right thing to do."