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Transcript: “Face the Nation” Reince Priebus, October 11, 2020

The following is a record of an interview with former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, which aired on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, October 18, 2020.


Margaret Brennan: Next, let’s look at CBS News political analyst and former Republican chairman Reince Priebus. He was also President Trump’s first White House Chief of Staff and joined us this morning from his hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Good morning.

Reince Priebus: Good morning, Margaret.

Margaret Brennan: Open the Washington Post today. As they report, you seem to have rejoined the Trump Campaign Mix. They say you are advising him on strategies, including coaching him at that recent NBC Town Hall. You say you are worried about the president’s chances. Is that so? Are you worried that the president is heading for loss?

Priebus: No, not at all. In fact, I’m not worried about it at all. I-I’m worried about early voting. I’m curious about absentee voting, but I’m always curious about early voting and absentee voting. I haven’t reappeared. I have always helped the President and helped RNC. But look at early voting and where we are. We’re in a pandemic, with five times more people voting in Florida than ever before. Polling is throughout the map. This is definitely going to happen, and I hope and expect the President to win.

Margaret Brennan: Well, what are the battlefield conditions you think he can win? Because, as you’ve heard from our polls, Joe Biden has an advantage here.

Priebus: First of all, Margaret, that is, these polls are really really complicated to measure. In short, it’s something we’ve never seen in this country. With the exception of working-class white voters and women in the suburbs, we have regions. One of the other things that is happening in this country is that President Trump has won an unprecedented number in these rural areas of the country. So, north of Wisconsin, like the heart of Wisconsin, President Trump won 18 points in 2016. Today, he is enthusiastically ahead 30 points in the American countryside. Yes, I’m a little depressed in the suburbs. But the difficulty for these pollsters is that, as you grew up, Margaret cannot measure this kind of disparity between what is happening in the country’s rural and suburbs. So the real-

Margaret Brennan: So do you think he will beat Wisconsin?

PRIEBUS: Um, I have to tell you, I-I saw a CBS poll this morning, and I’m not turning you, I was a little encouraged by it On average in 2016 Wisconsin’s RealClearPolitics, the president actually won with six and a half points.

Margaret Brennan: Yeah.

Priebus: But Margaret and Gary Johnson also won 106,000 votes in 2016. Therefore, he is not. Trump said he not only beat Wisconsin in 2016, but also lost six and a half years. He won. In addition, another conservative candidate won 106,000 votes. So when you ask me-

Margaret Brennan: Yeah-

Priebus: Please.

Margaret Brennan:-But in Wisconsin, our pollster Anthony Salvant, the white non-university-educated voters who came out strongly for the president in 2016, their margins point out. Is-is shrinking with respect to what we are seeing right now. Why do you think there is that erosion?

Priebus: Well, I don’t know if it’s erosion, Margaret. So, obviously, one of the things we’ll see in the coming weeks is that the president will be discussing the economy. I think it’s really important that this upcoming debate is that the president has a good, fun, and fun time that you know and like. Let Joe Biden speak and let Joe Biden protect the Obama economy. Let him defend why ISIS was rampaging in the cage and burning people. Let Joe Biden defend why he was the one man who didn’t want to proceed with the attack on Osama bin Laden.

Margaret Brennan: Yeah.

Priebus: Let him defend Iran’s deal. These are what I think, shifting the focus to the economy that voters listen to. But you know, look, I think it’s really complicated.

Margaret Brennan: That’s right-

Priebus: I don’t think anyone can predict what’s going on with early voting-

Margaret Brennan: That’s right-

Priebus: -Now in this country.

Margaret Brennan: It’s hard to predict, and it’s unbelievable that we’re in the midst of a very large pandemic. So how do you not deal with it? Do you really believe that there is no political sacrifice in the death we see in this country? So when you look at Wisconsin, where the president has just held a rally, the majority of Wisconsin voters say it’s unresponsive. Forty-nine percent of them say the Trump administration has hurt Wisconsin’s efforts. So they think the president is hurt-

Priebus: Clearly-

Margaret Brennan:-It doesn’t help.

Priebus: Well, I think it’s important to remind everyone that it was he who stopped most of the trips from China. It was he who developed the Task Force. Two trillion weeks after the country was closed, it was he who helped pass the CARES law. In other words, by the way-

Margaret Brennan: But the hospital is overwhelming-

Priebus: -By the way-

Margaret Brennan: -Now.

Priebus: Well, look, acknowledged, Margaret. To be sure, no one likes what is happening in this country. No one likes children staying home, and no one likes many of these states to be closed by the Democratic governor. That’s all true-

Margaret Brennan: Yeah.

PREIBUS:-But the question is, did this guy here, Joe Biden, make things better or do it differently? And I don’t think Joe Biden made such a claim-

Margaret Brennan: I see.

Priebus: But-but-but the point-

Margaret Brennan: I see.

Priebus:-I think so-Future discussions-

Margaret Brennan: Yeah.

Priebus: -A great opportunity for the President to make that claim to the American people-

Margaret Brennan: Yeah-we-

Priebus: I think he’s doing well in Wisconsin.

Margaret Brennan: We are watching. See if he accepts your advice. Reince Thank you. We will be back soon.

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