Priebus: GOP hurt by dumb comments; needs to work harder to be competitive in 2016

Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
Priebus: GOP hurt by dumb comments; needs to work harder to be competitive in 2016

Politics Confidential

Reince Priebus says the GOP needs to work harder to be competitive in the next presidential election in 2016. But those efforts aren’t aided by “hurtful” comments from some in the GOP that have alienated women voters.

“I don't think any party has a monopoly on dumb things that are said, so I'm not going to sit here and defend those comments,” Priebus tells Politics Confidential.

Asked specifically about Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s recent remark that education in the U.S. has suffered in part because “both parents started working and the mom is in the workplace,” Priebus said he disagrees with the remark but understands what Bryant meant to say.

“I think he was trying to say that people are busy,” he said. “We've got a lot of pressure on moms that are becoming more and more the breadwinners in our society. And I think he was trying to make an analogy there. Clearly, I don't agree with it.”

Priebus says one of the major challenges facing the GOP is how to broaden the party’s appeal in national elections.

“We've got ‘the tale of two parties,’” Priebus says. “We've got one party that basically wins everything imaginable in an off year, and I think will do really well in 2014. But then we have another issue when it comes to national elections, these big huge cultural votes…We've just got to get more competitive, we need to work harder.”

He says the GOP needs to catch up with the Obama campaign strategy, which he says changed the landscape of presidential elections with its full-time organization operating even in non-election years.

“We're not running against John Kerry and Al Gore anymore,” Priebus says. “We've got a Barack Obama organization that never quits, is always on the ground. They're on the ground right now, I guarantee you, as were talking, with clipboards and doing surveys. And we have to be a national organization that can go toe-to-toe with that.”

On the topic of New Jersey’s special election called by Gov. Chris Christie to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Priebus did not echo the outrage voiced by some other Republicans, like former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey, who recently called Christie’s decision “debilitating stupidity.”

“I think he's doing what's right for New Jersey,” Priebus says of Christie’s decision. “I would have to defer to a governor, who's had about 75 percent approval rating as a Republican in the state of New Jersey. I mean come on, give the guy a break…I defer to him. I support him.”

For more of the interview with Priebus, including his take on the immigration debate and why he says there’s “no way” he would support an immigration plan that gives amnesty to immigrants who came to the country illegally, check out this episode of Politics Confidential.

ABC's Eric Wray, Freda Kahen Kashi, Hank Disselkamp, and Barry Haywood contributed to this episode.