Reince Priebus: Party bosses don't pick winners or losers

RNC chairman on possibility of a brokered Republican convention


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 15, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, he is just resistant to gravity, I guess.

Donald Trump, in his latest poll, shows his national lead, national lead, this is the second time in as many days, that shows his lead is building, his appeal is building among Republicans across the country. Now different strokes in different states, as you know. In Iowa, he trails Ted Cruz in two separate polls.

But it does seem to indicate that the comments he made about Muslims and banning any more coming into this country until we sort all of this terror stuff out, it doesn't appear to be hurting him. If anything, it's helping him.

Reaction right now from the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, who I think is getting ready for some sort of a debate. It's not an FBN debate, so I frankly can't be bothered.


CAVUTO: But, anyway, Reince, it's very good to have you.

Are you surprised -- I know you have to play fair with everybody and the party and all -- this phenomenon that's called Donald Trump, that he continues to elevate in popularity? He will once again be in that center poll position.

PRIEBUS: Well, no doubt about it he's the front-runner.

And, you know, it's early in the process. I know it's not -- it doesn't seem like that, but actually I think it's kind of, you know, winding up the year and starting up again in January. But, clearly, he's the front- runner. He's saying things that a lot of people agree with, and so we will see how it shakes out.

I think there's a long way to go. And I think even Donald Trump would tell you the same thing. There's a long way to go. It's a marathon. And it will be exciting tonight. And, you know, all eyes are on the Republican Party. And I think for that, it's a gift to our party and our prospects.

CAVUTO: You said, Reince, you said it's still early. And it is, and we still have a ways to go, which we do. But it's -- I almost read in between the lines -- that you hope things will change in that time. Am I reading that correctly?


PRIEBUS: No. You know, I don't -- honestly, I think the nice thing about the Republican National Committee is that, you know, having a party that has its act together on the ground, has its act together with data, a party that doesn't embarrass itself with not being prepared -- I think we could have been a lot more prepared four years ago -- that unifies everybody.

So whether you're for Donald Trump, or Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, whoever you're for, you know that you have to have a national party that has its act together. And that's why we're in this space where we don't pick winners. We don't pick losers. But we're here to be a good national party that has its act together, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

You know all the scuttlebutt and the Washington Post story that you and some of your some big muckety-muck chieftains in the Republican National Committee were gathering at a restaurant in Washington to deal with the possibility of a brokered convention and, by extension, stop Trump.

Is that true? Was that true?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think I would be a little bit smarter than to go to a public restaurant and call a meeting to talk about something that we -- you -- you can't broker -- or you can't engineer a brokered convention.

I mean, so this was a regular meeting, Neil.

CAVUTO: But -- no, but, at face value, you could say that you -- the party leaders -- and I have said on this show that the math looks more and more likely that someone is not going to arrive in Cleveland with all the delegates they would need to be the party nominee.

PRIEBUS: Right. But...

CAVUTO: Now, that might change there once the -- but that the math favors just such a scenario.

Now, having said that, I don't think there's any harm in talking about a brokered convention.


CAVUTO: I think what bothered Donald Trump is what -- maybe you guys were trying to stop it. Is that true?

PRIEBUS: No. No. Obviously, we have talked to the Trump people. They know better. They know we're not meeting in a public restaurant with people to talk about how to engineer a brokered convention to stop people.

I mean, it's ridiculous.


CAVUTO: Well, he appears to think you guys don't like him.

PRIEBUS: I don't think that's the case.

I think if you ask him about what he thinks about me and the RNC, just like he did over the weekend on "FOX and Friends," he said the same thing. They are treating me well. They are treating me fine. They are treating me fairly.

That's what he would say if you ask him the question. My point is, though, to the premise of your question. I just want to make sure it's really clear, because there's this narrative out there that is ridiculous, which is that I was calling a meeting.

This is a monthly meeting among many, many meetings in Washington. We have monthly lunches, monthly breakfasts, monthly -- monthly dinners. Some of these things, I need to be at.

CAVUTO: Right.

PRIEBUS: We check off the box and I'm there.

And for 20 minutes in a two-hour meeting, people asked questions about the primary process. That was it. So, it wasn't that narrative.

CAVUTO: Well, that wouldn't surprise me, nor does that sound sinister and Machiavellian.

But I -- it gets me back to the point, I guess along interpretation, I guess, that, is there concern or was there among the so-called bigwigs like yourself that Donald Trump could pull this off, that he'd be damaging to you? There was a fear that, I guess, he's -- some thought in the party that he's alienating Latinos and women, that -- I think it was Senator McCain who said, if he got the nomination, he would take the party down to defeat. "We could lose the Senate," I think, were his words.

Was there and is there that alarm among some of your colleagues?

PRIEBUS: No, it wasn't that at all, Neil.

It was -- it started out, hey, is it true that 20-some percent of the delegates could be awarded on Super Tuesday, on March 1? What does a winner-take-all mean? What does a hybrid state do? What does it mean when a state is proportional? How many delegates does it take to be at a convention?

The most rudimentary types of questions that we would brief the media on, on a weekly basis.

CAVUTO: Right.

PRIEBUS: So, I mean, that's what we're talking about.

I think the right headline of that meeting would have been, RNC chairman attends routine dinner that he's attended for six years, and for 20 minutes people asked questions about the primary process.

That's not as fun as the RNC chairman calls a secret meeting in Washington, D.C., to talk about how to engineer a brokered convention.


CAVUTO: Well, then I will ask you about what you had on the menu in another interview.



CAVUTO: But, for now, I do want to ask you about, do you worry in that event that you have a lot of candidates still in the race, you do face a scenario where no one has enough delegates? What are you going to do in that event, or what are party officials looking at doing in that event, or do you think that someone arrives in Cleveland with the delegates they need to become the nominee?

PRIEBUS: I said it before. I will say it again.

By the end of March, mid-April, I believe that we're going to have a presumptive nominee, just like I always have. I'm not backing off of that.

Nothing has changed that.


CAVUTO: Presumptive nominee doesn't mean they have all the delegates.

PRIEBUS: But -- well, it's just like Mitt Romney was in April of four years ago.

CAVUTO: Fair enough. Fair enough.

PRIEBUS: So, I believe that we will have a nominee at the convention.

If, for example, though, you don't...

CAVUTO: And if that's Donald Trump, you're perfectly OK with that?

PRIEBUS: We're going to support whoever the nominee is.

CAVUTO: OK. Very good.

PRIEBUS: And we're going to have a party that is better than it's ever been before.

CAVUTO: All right, Reince Priebus, good luck tonight. And we will see you in about a month for the FBN debate, which is really the debate you got to watch so much.

PRIEBUS: You bet. Looking forward to it, Neil. Thank you.

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