RNC chair: I 'hope we're running against Hillary Clinton'

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton campaigns for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) on Nov. 1, 2014 in New Orleans, La.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton campaigns for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) on Nov. 1, 2014 in New Orleans, La.

Republicans want to run against Hillary Clinton for president, the head of the party insisted Friday, laying out how the GOP is already planning to capitalize on their wins in 2014 to be ready to take on Clinton in 2016.

Speaking at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the The Christian Science Monitor in Washington, D.C., Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Republicans are keeping staff in key presidential swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and explained how the GOP plans to avoid the “circus” of the 2012 nominating process.

The RNC is overhauling its rules to shorten the primary and caucus calendar, and reducing the number of debates, which numbered a whopping 23 in the 2012 cycle. “We’re taking it from a six month slice and dice fest to about weeks,” Priebus said. “We’re going to contain the process so we don’t end up with rogue debates that provide the temptation for candidates to break the rules.”

They're also improving their voter mobilization efforts, which has traditionally been a strength for Democrats, he said, explaining that 2016's "ground game" will have to be at least three times larger than in 2014. "I think we've got to be about perfect to win a national turnout vote in this country. I think Democrats can be good and win, we've got to be great," he added.

Are Republicans worried about running against Clinton, the presumed Democratic nominee? “I sure as heck hope we’re running against Hillary Clinton,” Priebus said.

Clinton allies have been trying to spin Tuesday night’s Democratic drubbing as a secret victory for Clinton, who will now have a clear villain to run against in the GOP-controlled Congress.

Nonsense, Priebus responded Friday. “If your job was to unify the party and raise a ton of money and get a ton of volunteers on the ground, I promise you, you would want no other opponent to run against than Hillary Clinton,” he said. Priebus also said voters rejected the Clintons when they rejected candidates endorsed by the Clintons.

Of course, that is exactly what a Republican leader would say, since it’s his job to project confidence and rally donors and activists. If the RNC were really so eager to take on Clinton, for instance, one might wonder why they bothered sending a staffer dressed as a squirrel to stalk the former secretary of state this summer.

Priebus said Tuesday's wins were obviously very good for Republicans, but declined to say the party now had a mandate to govern. “I would call that a pretty sweeping victory, but whether it’s a mandate or not, that’s a different question,” he said.

Voters in Wisconsin, for instance, "accepted" conservative Republican ideas, Priebus said. "Perhaps embraced might be a little over the top."

Clinton defenders aren't worried by Priebus' talk, however, said Adrienne Elrod of the main group defending her, Correct the Record. "We agree with Reince -- we hope she runs too! And Reince should be careful what he and the GOP wish for -- 83% of Democrats think Hillary would make a good president, according to exit polls from Tuesday.  Hillary Clinton's overwhelming, across-the-board popularity and admiration among Americans is a result of her vision to strengthen the middle class, increase opportunities for women, and ensure a better future for Americans from all walks of life," Elrod said.