OTR Interviews

So much for bipartisanship: Obama vows to 'play offense' against GOP-led Congress

RNC Chair Reince Priebus on the tone a 'cooperative' president is setting with the new Congress, his recent re-election to a third term, and RNC announcements for debate locations and networks

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 16, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, so much for working together. President Obama insisting he'll play offense against the new Republican-controlled Congress. That's what he told Senate Democrats in a private meeting yesterday.

But the president isn't the only one going on offense. What's the Republican's plan? Reince Priebus who was elected to a third term as the RNC chair joins us. You're out in San Diego. It sounds like a pretty good place to be as I'm here in New York. Curious -- let me ask you about President Obama's approach in the last two years. He wants to go on offense, he says, which I think sort of makes sense, but what did you hear at the meeting these past few days about how the Republicans plan to deal with that?

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, look. I mean, we have to fight tooth and nail and point out to the American people that the things that this president promised aren't working for this country and point out the hypocrisy in our sort of leading from behind attitude that we've had out of the White House across the globe, and it's a place that we don't want to see our country go. So it's going to be up to us as Republicans to take the victories from 2014, you know, continue to kind of become a better national party and a better operation and be prepared for a big cultural vote in this country in 2016. We got to be about perfect.

PERINO: In that regard, you just were elected to an unprecedented third term. You had inherited -- when you first started at your first term, you had a $25 million deficit that you now have a $5 million surplus or maybe you have more than that, I'm not sure what the latest numbers are. With that type of a turn around, you also are trying some new changes, which is a compressed primary schedule in 2016 and fewer debates. Can you tell me about that?

PRIEBUS: Well, sure. I mean I think we've come a long way as a national party. I tell people 2014 was a great beta test for us. We're starting to get our act together in building that massive operation, but part of it is we're going to have a lot of candidates and a lot of good candidates, but that means that we need to have a primary process that isn't a three ring circus. We can't have 23 debates all over the country every three days. We can't have a process of six months of our candidates killing each other. So we want to have a reasonably shorter process, fewer debates that are more fair for everybody and it's really a big issue now that we're going to have a big field. We've got to be really good at this.

PERINO: What does it mean to you moving the convention from -- it has been late August, early September all the way to mid July. Why do you think that's a good idea?

PRIEBUS: Yeah.

PERINO: Are you concerned that you will not have that last-minute sort of momentum going into the Election Day?

PRIEBUS: Well, we're -- it's going to be the earliest convention since 1980 on the Republican side of the aisle. No, because here's the problem. We're going to come through a primary as a Republican party and we're going to have to make sure that our candidate can get to the general election money sooner.

And if we wait until end of August or September, what's gong to happen? Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party with no primary so she's going to have a lot of primary money. Our nominee's going to be broke, and if we wait until September to have a convention, under the law, that candidate can't get any of the general election money until the convention in August or September. So our nominee would end up becoming a duck on a pond, and so we can't do that. So this is not an establishment takeover. This is using our brain and getting our nominee on the rail.

PERINO: In addition, tell me a little bit more about the number of debates being fewer than before and how do you enforce that if there are candidates that want to have other debates, you know, is there any penalty?

PRIEBUS: Well, for one thing, we have to make sure that our major debate partners are part of the equation. So you have to -- you have a debate schedule that includes a lot of different debate partners that agree to adhere to a schedule. So that's the first thing. You try to cut out any sort of bad actors that you can by including people into the schedule. So that's number one. Number two, we tell our candidates, "Look. You can compete in these nine debates. We're not going to have 23 like the last time, but if you compete in a debate that's not on the calendar, then you're not going to compete in any debates on the calendar. You're going to be cut out of the rest of the schedule." So you know, people don't want to get cut out of being on Fox News, Dana, and right now, we're going for three debates.

(CROSSTALK)

PERINO: Who would want that? That would be terrible.

PRIEBUS: Right. So they're -- plus Fox Business is going to have a debate too. So you know, it's really important for us to have that containment.

PERINO: All right. Chairman, congratulations and thanks for joining us.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, Dana.