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Reince Priebus: Republican Wins The Result Of Americans Making A Statement


We begin with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, a man who steered his party to a sweeping victory yesterday. Reince Priebus, welcome to the program.

REINCE PRIEBUS: Happy to be on - it's been a good day.

SIEGEL: I'd like to ask you broadly, what happened yesterday? If you can just sum up what it was that led Republicans to victory - winning the Senate, winning more seats in the House, winning so many governorships - was it all about Barack Obama?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think it was a couple of things. One - people rejected Barack Obama's policies and all the people that were connected to those policies, so that's the first piece. The second piece, though, was that conservative principles in the states were all accepted and everyone connected to Obama was rejected.

SIEGEL: So you would say there's a real political, philosophical statement being made in that result.

PRIEBUS: I think there's a massive statement that was made by the electorate last night. It wasn't just a rejection of Obama. It was the acceptance of conservative principles and governing.

SIEGEL: I asked you last week what a good Republican showing would be among Latino voters, and you cited the exit polls that showed Mitt Romney had won just 27 percent of the Latino vote. You said 37 percent would be good, and I believe that yesterday Republicans did just about that well.

PRIEBUS: Yeah, it's amazing what micro-targeting can tell you and modeling.

SIEGEL: Well, to maintain and improve upon that showing, what do Republicans have to do about immigration within the next two years?

PRIEBUS: I don't think anything is going to happen unless the border is secure. And that's not a talking point, and I know everyone's heard it a million times, but I will tell you the one thing that the president has fumbled and bumbled is immigration and immigration reform. And he's fumbled and bumbled it by threatening executive amnesty which created a border crisis that has now unified the country against all of the immigration policies of the president. The only way we're going to get around that if you want any kind of immigration reform is to secure the border first.

SIEGEL: Does that mean then that securing the border is a sufficiently big projects that there really won't be a comprehensive immigration reform bill that addresses the status of the illegal or undocumented immigrants in the country over the next two years?

PRIEBUS: I don't think there's going to be massive immigration reform or even significant immigration reform unless and until the border is secured.

SIEGEL: I'm going to ask you about healthcare. Are Republicans now obliged to produce a comprehensive substitute for the Affordable Care Act that both houses can support and that Americans could then compare in terms of benefits and costs with Obamacare, or is it just time to tweak and adjust the existing law?

PRIEBUS: I think that what happened yesterday was a total and complete repudiation of Obamacare, and I think the message was pretty loud and clear. So I don't know where you start on something like that. I think you have to break it down and start over.

SIEGEL: A huge Republican theme has been the unpopularity of Barack Obama's presidency today and Obamacare. He's not going to be on the ballot in two years. The Democrats won't be able to set the agenda in either house of Congress now. What's the theme over the next two years for Republicans if you can't blame Democrats for what ails the country?

PRIEBUS: Well, I mean obviously the president is going to be there. It didn't stop the Democrats from running against George W. Bush for the last - what? - 14 years. So they haven't had a real brilliant strategy. And unfortunately, it was pretty effective. So one thing I would say, though, is that we have to show the American people that we're number one, we're serious about governing, conservative principles work and that we need to grow America's jobs not Washington's jobs. And I think if we can do that and get the country back on track economically, I think we'll be rewarded.

SIEGEL: Well, Reince Priebus, thank you very much for talking with us. Congratulations on the Republican showing yesterday.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, sir.

SIEGEL: Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.