I just completed a quick interview with RNC chair Reince Priebus.
NRO: Isaac’s threat to Tampa appears to be passing, but there may be a serious threat to some other states. Do you have any worries or thoughts about changing the schedule if there’s a severe threat to New Orleans or to the Gulf Coast?
Priebus: Right now, I have not had a single discussion about doing anything other than going forward with the events and the schedule that we have planned. I will say, though, that we have to be nimble. And everyone can see that we can be nimble if we need to be. We have the ability to make alternative plans if we have to, but right now we feel that our message of the American dream and fixing this economy and putting ourselves on the right track for the future of this country — I think it’s a positive message and it’s a message that will always be good. When we’re optimistic about the future and how we’re going to fix this great country and put people back to work, it’s a message that works all the time.
Certainly, we have to be mindful of the effects of the hurricane and what that means to people who are pretty close by here.
NRO: This is traditionally one of the points of the year when the candidate really gets his chance to make his sales pitch to the American people. Any worries about a split screen on the cable news networks, or other big news events going on and getting in the way of the candidate getting to make his pitch to the people?
Priebus: It is what it is, right? So we have a hurricane, and we have three days to have this convention and nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. We understand completely — they’re all newsworthy events. Competition among events is not uncommon, and we think it’s important for people to stay informed about the storm as well.
It’s just a balance. I think tone is important, but when you see how we’re operating at the convention, you’ll see we have a very respectful tone. Obviously, the message is about how we can provide a better future for America, and that’s a tone that works with everything.
NRO: You said at a briefing a few moments ago that [former Gov. Mike] Huckabee will be speaking Wednesday night. Were there ever any discussions about removing him from the speaker’s list for the controversy and his defense of Akin?
Priebus: No. It’s one thing to have a dispute with Congressman Akin. That’s one thing. Akin’s the one who put himself in this place. That’s one level of argument. But then to say that because you think that we should just move on, as opposed to me thinking he should step down and let someone else carry the water, that’s sort of a couple steps removed from the issue. I think that’s a little bit different.
NRO: Had you read his e-mail defending Akin?
Priebus: Sure, I read it. He’s entitled. Having an opinion — Mike Huckabee’s not the one who said the biologically stupid things. So it’s different.
NRO: One of the discussions here at the convention is people wondering about the bump that Romney will get, and whether it will be up to the traditional levels. Some folks are wondering if it’s possible to get the traditional bump, with such a polarized electorate and so few undecided voters left. Are you expecting a bump, and if so, how large?
Priebus: I think we’re going to have a base that is energized and motivated. I think the convention is going to be great in telling the Mitt Romney story. Getting Americans to understand more about Mitt as a person and what his plans are for this country can only help us.
As far as assessing the bump and what percent, you know, the media cycle is so different nowadays. We’re just so saturated these days, and because the media is constant nowadays . . . Conventions of the past had a four-day event that was the only huge political news for the summer. I think it’s a different time now . . .
I think we’re going to be motivated, I think it’s great for our base, it’s a great opportunity to tell people who Mitt Romney is, introduce him to people who don’t know him yet, and I’m optimistic that we’ll have a good result.
NRO: I realize the decision to hold the convention in Tampa was made by your predecessor, but first, is it possible this is the last convention on the coast in the Southeast for a while, and second — let me guess, your first choice for the 2016 convention would be Milwaukee, right?
Priebus: (laughing) Milwaukee sounds great! But I’ll say this, in a rare defense of Michael Steele — we’ve had conventions in New Orleans, Houston, Miami, now we’re in Tampa — actually, New York could have had a hurricane. You could just eliminate so many places. This is just such an odd situation. I don’t blame him. The fact of the matter is, we’re happy to be here, the people of Tampa have been so hospitable . . .
And quite frankly, we’ve got to win Florida. And there’s no better place for us to spend our time and our money and our energy than Florida. So I’m happy we’re here.