Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, speaks at the American Conservative Union's CPAC conference at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., March 4, 2016. 
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP

RNC throws a ‘brush-back pitch’ at anti-Trump Republicans

Updated
The Republican Party’s #NeverTrump contingent isn’t exactly a dominating force within the GOP, but it has some notable members. Late last week, for example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) told NBC News is it’s “very, very” unlikely he’ll vote for Donald Trump this fall. The governor added he’s still inclined to put “country first.”

CBS News’ John Dickerson talked about this with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus yesterday, and the Republican leader adopted a fairly aggressive posture.
PRIEBUS: Those people need to get on board. And if they’re thinking they’re going to run again someday, you know, I think that we’re going to evaluate the process of the nomination process, and I don’t think it’s going to be that easy for them.

DICKERSON: It – would the party itself penalize somebody who does not make good on the pledge that they made to support the party’s nominee?

PRIEBUS: I think these are things that our party’s going to look at in the process. And I think that people who gave us their word, used information from the RNC, should be on board.
When the host specifically mentioned Kasich’s name, Priebus said, “Sure.” Dickerson added, “So if he wants to run again, it seems like he might want to, he might be out of luck as far as the RNC goes?”

The party leader didn’t mention any details about sanctions, but he nevertheless said Republican presidential candidates pledged to support the party’s nominee, and “those participants [who] don’t follow through” should expect to be punished.

“Sounds like a brushback pitch,” Dickerson added.

It does, indeed. What’s more, let’s not forget that Kasich isn’t the only candidate who might be affected: Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, for example, haven’t been quite as vocal as the Ohio governor, but they’ve also held back on supporting their party’s national ticket.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid noted on Twitter yesterday, “So they can block a candidate they find unacceptable. Huh.”

I was thinking the same thing. There was a point last year at which the Republican Party faced calls for rejecting Donald Trump’s candidacy. There was just no reason, many argued, for the RNC to treat a clownish reality-show personality, running on a platform of racially charged appeals, as if he were a serious contender for the party’s presidential nomination.
Priebus, we now know, ignored those suggestions. Republican voters would be able to evaluate the candidates on their own, he said, and the RNC doesn’t have the authority to intervene.

And while the debate over that decision can continue, note that Priebus is saying something qualitatively different now: the RNC does have the authority to intervene, and former candidates like Kasich who withhold their support for Donald Trump should expect meaningful penalties.

Trump himself seems to like this approach. He told Fox News this morning, “These people all want to run in four years, right? If I were the head of the Republican Party, I’d say, ‘You can’t do it.’”

Donald Trump, John Kasich, Reince Priebus, Republican Party and RNC

RNC throws a 'brush-back pitch' at anti-Trump Republicans

Updated