IOWA CITY, Iowa–On the trail here with Joni Ernst, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus lit into President Obama, Harry Reid and Ernst’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) while outlining what he says Americans are “starving for” in their political leaders.
“We’re in a battle for freedom in this country,” Priebus said at a campaign stop in Ankeny. “That’s where we’re at. It’s the same battle that founded our country. It’s the same battle that James Madison reaffirmed in our Bill of Rights. And here we are today.”
Reid is “one of the most divisive, dishonest, hypocritical, nasty people that takes everything that you don’t like about Washington and wraps it up into one little nice package with a bow on top,” Priebus said in one of several interviews in between campaign stops.
The Wisconsin native also discussed immigration, demanding Obama back off an “unconstitutional” planned executive amnesty for millions of illegal aliens.
“Here’s the problem: the president’s promised to follow through with his illegal activity. So I think the bigger issue for us, too, besides pointing out the hypocrisy and the lies, is to also point out to people – which we should do more of – is that he’s promising to follow through with an unconstitutional illegal act. So they’re intending to do this anyway, at least that’s what he’s saying,” Priebus said.
He also explained a recent statement from an RNC spokeswoman that drew fire from the right.
When Obama announced he was delaying his executive amnesty, RNC spokeswoman Ruth Guerra issued a statement that “The President’s empty rhetoric and broken promises are a slap in the face to millions of Hispanics across the country.” Critics like radio host Laura Ingraham interpreted the remark to be an implicit criticism of Obama for not moving forward on executive amnesty.
The intent, Priebus said, was to highlight how Obama has cynically used the immigration issue as a wedge to exploit Hispanic voters.
“I think the point here is, is the slap in the face to America in that this president is constantly using people, using politics and lying to people about what he intends to do or doesn’t intend to do in order to curry favor for the moment. When in reality, he may have never intended to follow through anyway. Or, if he did intend, he was simply trying to use whatever rhetoric he was using for temporary political gratification. That’s the point. The slap in the face is he uses people as political pawns and he simply lies to them in order to curry favor with them,” Priebus said, although allowing the statement might have been more carefully worded.
Regarding the ongoing border crisis, Priebus said it had changed the landscape on the immigration issue.
“Barack Obama overplayed his hand so big time that what he’s done is he’s unified America around the idea that unless you secure the border, any other talk of immigration reform of any kind is sort of premature, because no one wants to end up in the same place 10 years from now, no matter what you’re ideas are,” he said.
Fresh from a trip to Colorado, where Rep. Cory Gardner had recently taken a small lead in the newest polls, Priebus was optimistic about the political landscape headed into the final stretch of the campaign.
On the stump, he was a bit more fiery than the Iowa politicians who spoke alongside him and drew laughs when ridiculing Braley’s comments about Sen. Chuck Grassley that were caught on a hidden camera.
At a fundraising cocktail reception with trial lawyers in Corpus Christi, Texas, Braley warned attendees that if Republicans took the Senate, “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, [would be] serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee” – referring to Grassley.
“I come from Wisconsin, I’m your neighbor. I gotta tell you, if somebody went around the country and jabbed at the Packers, Harley Davidson, Miller Lite, cheese – I don’t care Republican or Democrat, that person doesn’t belong in the conversation,” Priebus told audiences in Iowa.
He also offered a joke about his name as an aside, saying, “I have a little son named Jack, my daughter is Grace. Isn’t it nice that one family tradition – Reince – is killed off with Jack and Grace? Some things are worth changing, my name’s one of them” to laughter.
Priebus attributed Ernst’s success in Iowa to her authenticity, life experience as a mother and soldier, and a clever ad in which she described an upbringing castrating hogs.
“I feel really good about Joni. If you look at the environment, she’s even or a little ahead. Braley’s not getting above 45 percent. Branstead’s going to win by 18 or 20. The environment’s excellent. Everything points to a victory here. It’s a good play. It’s a good bet,” Priebus said.
Since he frequently mentions authenticity, I asked Priebus about how he likes working inside the beltway, a place infamous for its cynicism, even if some of that is overblown from time to time.
“It’s a fake environment. Things are fake. Spin, sometimes, can be fake. Spin within our party can be fake. Spin from the other side can be fake. Spin from the media can be fake. And it’s all created to create more spin and other fake media!” Priebus said.
The worst is Reid, he added.
“I mean, this guy is unbelievable. He rips on anyone who makes over 50 grand a year. He lives in the Ritz Carlton in Washington, D.C. And he’s spending millions and millions of dollars from billionaires on television trying to bury our candidates alive. It’s the hypocritical nature of politics that drives people and me crazy. And he takes the cake.”