GERAGHTY: The report mentioned moving to regional primaries, with a certain number of “carve out” states that would keep their traditional early role in the presidential-primary process. Which states do you envision having the carve-out role?
PRIEBUS: That’s probably going to be something that will be decided by the [RNC] rules committee. It’s been debated since Bill Brock was chairman around here [from 1977 to 1981]. This isn’t really any kind of a new debate. But I suspect that this is going to be an important thing for our party to talk about and resolve. One thing people really do want is an orderly primary that is not confusing. The candidates running don’t know what primary is going to be next and where they need to be.
Whatever we decide, we have to decide it early so that our candidates and the public know exactly what the road map is going to be for our party. I would like an orderly primary that is shorter, with an earlier convention, so that we can get on with the general election.
GERAGHTY: Are you guys at the committee struggling with a chicken-and-egg situation, in that you’re trying to build an infrastructure to help improve the perception of the party, yet the perception of the party will be heavily driven by its candidates, and that’s something you don’t really control?
PRIEBUS: It’s not totally out of our hands. Let me step back to the premise.
The RNC is not really competing against the DNC. That’s not our competition. Our competition is really Barack Obama’s organization, along with all of their soft-money organizations.
You have an RNC, a hard-money organization, trying to take the lead against all of them — and one that’s all of the above on the other side of the aisle.
Instead of whining about it, complaining about it, we decided to come up with a game plan that’s going to deal with it. That’s why you see 219 recommendations. Most of them can be agreed to by people, some not, but if you’re going to be big and bold and take on the entire Democratic establishment, you have to be pretty far-reaching.
We also have to be not just a political party but a community-based, coast-to-coast operation that includes everything from educating people about what our party believes to our proud history of liberty and equality and freedom. We don’t get out and say “I’m a Republican because . . . ” enough.
We have an obligation to build a massive organization to help lead this effort. That might mean we get out there and talk about issues. How about having a party that can explain in South Florida, and places like Kissimmee and others, about the Paul Ryan budget and why saving Medicare is important?
We’re right on the math a lot of the time, but sometimes explaining our position takes a little bit more time. And it’s worse if you’re not in the community to do it.
We just have to be granular, and I’m just worried that if we don’t start doing this, we’re going to fall farther behind.
GERAGHTY: Most of the 2013 elections are looking uncompetitive or are a bit farther down the road, but any thoughts on the special House elections or two gubernatorial races this year?
PRIEBUS: We want to get some of our mobile apps and digital applications up to speed this year. We want to do some new things on voter data and get-out-the-vote efforts.
These races are going to give us a good opportunity to test these applications, and obviously we have to get a lot of what we’re talking about in this plan up and running before 2014.
My hope is that some of them will be ready in 2013. Our ground operation is going to be out there, and we can do some really good testing to see if we can make a difference in some communities we haven’t really been in before. Virginia will be a good test, because that appears to be much closer than New Jersey right now.
As a party, we’re going to be big and bold. We can’t continue to operate the way that we have. We’re financially very secure — we’re the only national committee in Washington, D.C., that isn’t in debt. We have the ability to fix some of the things we need to fix. We understand that the candidate is the most important ingredient, but we need to make sure we are doing the work underneath to get our candidates across the finish line.
— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.