Despite Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 Presidential election, no serious challenger has emerged against Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who announced earlier this month that he would seek a second two-year term.
Speaking to CNN’s Piers Morgan on Tuesday, Priebus sounded realistic but upbeat about the future of the Republican Party:
I don’t think you can draw any quick conclusions other than the fact that we lost and we know that. But in order to get back in the game, you’ve got to look at and do a full autopsy of what happened…
We’ve turned things around here [at the RNC] both financially and as an organization but now I think we need to lead to the next election. We need to figure out what we can do better and how to do that.
Priebus told the 168 members of the Republican National Committee of his plans to run in an email sent on November 16:
I am humbled by the over 130 RNC Members who I have talked to who have pledged their support and public endorsement for me to continue on as Chairman so we can finish the job that we started and continue to grow our Party.
When I return the week after Thanksgiving, I intend to make an official announcement that I am running to continue on as your chairman, but I wanted to let you all know first.
While Priebus was part of the Republican team responsible for the Romney loss, much of the blame for the loss has fallen on the shoulders of the Romney campaign staff itself.
Until Governor Romney’s defeat on election day, Mr. Priebus was considered a shoo-in for a second term. A Wisconsin native and close friend of Governor Scott Walker and Paul Ryan, Priebus shared the credit for Walker’s recall election victory in June. In addition, he was widely considered an effective spokesman in the national media, where he was known for delivering blunt counter-punches to Democratic talking points with a touch of Wisconsin humor.
The 40-year-old Priebus was a virtual unknown outside of Wisconsin when he took over for Michael Steele in January 2011. His unusual name was the only thing distinguished him at the time.
Despite the historic takeover of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election, Priebus’s predecessor Steele was widely considered a failure in the position, having left the RNC with over $22 million in debt and no cash in the bank. Many complained he was more interested in promoting his own book than persuading RNC donors to contribute.
In contrast, Priebus has worked effectively with donors, who have given generously during his two-year term. The RNC’s financial position significantly improved under his leadership. Priebus remains popular with donors despite Romney’s loss. Even the loss of two Republican seats in the Senate as well as several seats in the House appears not to have damaged Priebus’s standing within the party too severely.
In his email to RNC members, Priebus made no mention of Romney’s losses or the losses in the Senate. He did, however, make one claim that is at odds with most reporting on the 2012 election. Priebus claimed in his email that:
We deployed a Republican ground game that was the strongest in history. We harnessed new technology and built upon our outreach efforts, reaching more voters and spreading the Republican message.
Most press reports, however, consider the Romney and RNC ground game efforts a complete debacle. In addition to the utter failure of the ORCA election day software, numerous articles have reported on the vast get-out-the-vote advantage the Democrats had over Republicans in the 2012 election.
Despite this weakness in Priebus’s track record, his strengths as a fundraiser and communicator are high hurdles for potential challengers to match. Politico reported that only one potential challenger has surfaced so far, and it’s unclear if he will enter the race:
There has been little speculation about potential challengers to Priebus, although Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere, also an RNC vice chairman, raised eyebrows earlier this week when he asked for input about “how we can improve our efforts.”
The 168 members of the Republican National Committee are scheduled to meet in early January to select the next RNC chairman.