It’s a new chapter in the 2012 presidential campaign, and for Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, it means he no longer has to remain neutral watching the GOP contenders slug it out. The party chairman talked to NRO about how the RNC would help the Romney campaign and down-ticket GOP candidates across the country. He also discussed the RNC’s recent complaint to the General Accountability Office about the president’s doing campaign-style events at taxpayers’ expense.
NRO: Your video department has been busy lately.
REINCE PRIEBUS: They’re doing a great job. We’ve actually hired a person in-house whose entire job is making these videos, and they’re doing it very effectively. It’s amazing how much communication now can be accomplished through 30-second and one-minute web videos. Some of these videos have more than 1 million clicks on YouTube. They get a lot of people.
NRO: When you guys go up on the air with television advertising later this year, will you use the same style, or do you change slightly when trying to reach a television audience?
PRIEBUS: It may change a little bit. I don’t think it will be less hard-hitting, but sometimes you have to be shorter. It’s like anything in politics: You always have to remember that you can only communicate a couple of things at a time.
I had a meeting with a gentleman by the name of Lord Timothy Bell. He did a lot of advertising for Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister. He told me something that I think is very true in politics. He said, “I can throw you seven tennis balls, but the odds are, you’re going to catch only one or two of them.” In politics, the trick is throwing you two tennis balls and letting you catch them, and figuring out what those two issues should be, and what the winning two issues are. In advertising, it’s important to keep it simple.
In this particular case, this president has given us so much material. He’s a person who is absolutely in love with the sound of his own voice. Because of that, we have so much material and so much to remind the American people of, it’s actually a little more difficult because we have to choose from a whole pile of good ideas.
NRO: The RNC’s ads are now featuring Governor Romney. Is it easier when you can say good things about your nominee instead of just bad things about the incumbent?
PRIEBUS: Well, there are two boxes we need to make sure that we check off in voters’ minds. The first box — and I don’t think anyone can get away from this — is a referendum on Barack Obama. Does this president deserve to be reelected? Did he fulfill the promises that he made to the American people? Are you better off today than you were three or four years ago? That’s the first box. It’s about Obama, and we need as many people as possible to check that box.
The next box is, “Has the Republican party provided an intelligent alternative to this president?” And certainly Governor Romney meets that qualification.
But you don’t get to the second box until you first ask the question of whether or not President Obama deserves to be rehired. It’s always a dual issue as far as the president is concerned. They go hand in hand.