For Republicans, Midterms About Getting Country 'Out Of The Mud'
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This week, with the November elections less than two weeks off, we're hearing from the chairs of the Democratic and Republican National Committees. Yesterday we heard from Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz who chairs the DNC. Today, Reince Pribus, chairman of the RNC. Welcome to the program.
REINCE PRIBUS: Hey, thanks for having me.
SIEGEL: While granting that there are lots of local or statewide issues and a lot of elections this fall, is there some national Republican theme that says in a nutshell what the 2014 elections are all about?
PRIBUS: Well, I think it's about finally getting our country out of the mud and moving forward. And I think that if you look at where the Democrats and the president have taken this country, I don't think too many people - Republicans, Independents and even discerning Democrats - are too happy with where we're at, whether it be foreign policy like ISIS in Syria or things like Ebola and the Secret Service or just our economy - that people aren't back to work the way they should, and they have less money in the bank than they used to. And, you know, that's generally what's happening. And it really is not a good place for our country to be.
SIEGEL: I want to pick up on one word in your answer just now. Do you think Ebola is actually an appropriate national political issue in 2014?
PRIBUS: I think it's an issue because the president's making it an issue either by appointing a lobbyist and a political hack as the Ebola czar as they call it, or just the sort of apparent ineptitude of the CDC. So things aren't going well for the Democrats, and they should suffer.
SIEGEL: But just to be clear, I mean, when we talk about Ebola, we've had a number of cases in this country that you can count on the fingers I think still of one hand in terms of the cases that have been contracted in the United States. So it's not - we're not talking about a national epidemic in the United States.
PRIBUS: No, but we're talking about the management style of a president who no matter what he's touching lately is not going well. And people don't have confidence in this president or these Democrats. I'm not saying anything earth-shattering. I mean, there's only about 2,000 polls that support everything I'm saying.
SIEGEL: Reince Pribus, the Republican National Committee issued a so-called autopsy report of the party after the 2012 elections. And among your recommendations for the party to avoid marginalizing itself - your term - where we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. And we have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance. And we should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages when middle-class voters have not had a meaningful raise in years. Do you hear the Republican Party saying those things in these midterm elections?
SIEGEL: You know?
PRIBUS: I do.
SIEGEL: Embracing comprehensive immigration reform?
PRIBUS: No but I think what you see is people like Rand Paul that on March 19 went to the Hispanic Chamber and said those very same words. You can Google it yourself and see it. So we got Ted Cruz talking about immigration reform. And of course you've got Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and other people talking about immigration reform. So really without Republicans in the Senate, that Senate bill that ultimately I agree didn't pass the House, wasn't even in the equation without Republicans. So I just think that what happened here is the president I think overplayed his hand. I think that he ended up creating a border crisis that galvanized the country against the president's policies.
SIEGEL: Well, let me ask you, what percent of Latino votes nationwide would be a reasonable mark of success for the Republicans in that case? What would make you pleased?
PRIBUS: Well, look, I'd hope that we get a majority so 50 percent plus one. I mean, I'd love to win over Hispanic voters in this country but...
SIEGEL: No polls suggest that's going to happen.
PRIBUS: I understand that. But I think that instead of getting 27 percent of Hispanic vote, if we work really hard I'd love to see us get 37, 40 percent. Right now, just so that you know, Cory Gardner is beating Mark Udall, the Democrat, in Colorado straight up. So the Republican is winning Hispanic voters in Colorado today, and we have a massive ground operation in Colorado talking to Hispanic voters and really reaching out and doing something that our party should've been doing a lot more of. But those are some of the things that we're trying to change and get better at.
SIEGEL: Name one other race that you would draw attention to on election night where you think we're going to see a measure of Republican success.
PRIBUS: Well, I think we're going to see Joni Ernst in Iowa. Can I do one more? I think Scott Brown in New Hampshire and Thom Tillis in North Carolina. I think they're all going to win. And so those are purple states. But I think when you see that in 10 days, you're then going to start seeing the talk of the pathway to 2016, and those states are going to play a big role in it.
SIEGEL: Reince Pribus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Thanks for talking with us today.
PRIBUS: You bet. Thank you, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.