• WisPolitics

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

 9:14 AM 

Priebus looks to rebuild RNC finances

New RNC Chair Reince Priebus has ambitious goals for the state and national GOP in next year's elections. But for now, he's primarily focused on making sure the party is in sufficient financial shape to make that happen.

"We're a piece of the puzzle," Priebus told WisPolitics.com of the RNC's role in electing conservative candidates. "But in order to do that, I need to be fully financed and functional."

Priebus, who won election as RNC chair earlier this month after serving as head of the Wisconsin GOP, made headlines following his election by firing the election liaison team created by predecessor Michael Steele to plan the 2012 convention in Florida. He said the move showed "that I meant what I said in the campaign that I would clean house in Tampa."

But Priebus said working with grassroots groups, in addition to regaining the trust of RNC donors, would play into the party's ongoing success. He said Wisconsin's GOP victories last year could be replicated across other states because "our model's pretty simple."

"You need the money, you need the great candidates ... and No. 3, we have to work with people," Priebus said.

Priebus said he's moved past the controversy surrounding his run again Steele, for whom he served as RNC chair campaign manager and, later, RNC legal counsel.

Following his defeat, Steele said in one interview that he now knows how Caesar felt, a swipe at Priebus for turning on him.

"We needed to go in a different direction," Priebus said. "My view on all that is just, we're moving on, we need to save our party and rebuild the RNC."

But he did say that he would differ from Steele in his approach to publicity, acknowledging that while he'll make his share of appearances on cable news shows, many in the RNC hoped to see "a little less of self" on those appearances.

"My view on media is basically that if I am not advancing an important Republican principle or cause, or I'm not assisting a candidate in getting elected, then I probably shouldn't be running around and doing all sorts of cable shows," Priebus said.

Priebus said his election to head of the national party should be a "net positive" for Wisconsin Republicans, but that the state would likely have been in the political crosshairs regardless.

He noted President Obama's scheduled stop Wednesday in Manitowoc following the State of the Union address, saying, "Barack Obama's map just doesn't add up without Wisconsin."

Priebus said winning the Badger State for the GOP presidential nominee next year is "mandatory," but that his other goal is to retain the party's legislative majorities to help Walker as he ends his first term.

"Now is our opportunity to solidify our state as being a red state," Priebus said.

Priebus also said he wants to flip the 3rd Congressional District, predicting that state Sen. Dan Kapanke would have ousted incumbent Ron Kind if the race had lasted another two weeks.

And he also predicted "there is going to be someone out there" to challenge for the state's U.S. Senate seat next year, either against incumbent Dem Herb Kohl or in an open seat. Kohl has said he expects to run.

Priebus said that Ron Johnson provided a blueprint for future candidates, from either the private sector or elected office, to focus on government spending and economic issues.

"People in Wisconsin will gravitate toward those candidates," Priebus said.

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