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Priebus easily wins second term as RNC chairman

| Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 1:54 p.m.
JASMINE GOLDBAND
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is interviewed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, June 1, 2011. (Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review)
FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2012, file photo, Chairman of the Republican National Convention Reince Priebus addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. After back-to-back presidential losses, Republicans in key states want to change the rules to make it easier for them to win. From Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, GOP officials who control legislatures in states that supported President Barack Obama are considering changing state laws that give the winner of a state’s popular vote all of its Electoral College votes, too. Instead, these officials want Electoral College votes to be divided proportionally, a move that could transform the way the country elects its president. Priebus endorsed the idea and other Republican leaders support it, too, suggesting that the effort may be gaining momentum. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

CHARLOTTE — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Friday easily won a second two-year term in the election of officers at the party's Winter Meeting.

“I am humbled by your trust and support, and to each of you I say ‘thank you,' ” Priebus, a Wisconsin lawyer, told the delegates, who stood to applaud his nomination. “The task before us now is charting our party's future. We have an opportunity and responsibility to shape the GOP of the next generation.

“By now, you know the theme of this meeting: Renew. Grow. Win. That is my agenda for the next two years. Renew our party. Grow our ranks. And win more elections.”

An attempted challenge for the chair by GOP committeeman Mark Willis of Maine fizzled before the RNC gathering even began. Willis did not gain backing from delegates in three states to be nominated.

“He should not be unchallenged after losing an election,” Willis told the Tribune-Review.

In addition to recovering from embarrassing losses in the Nov. 6 elections, the party is trying to rebuild and rebrand itself, experts say.

A poll released on Friday by the Washington-based Purple Strategies shows that in 12 battleground states — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida — only 65 percent of Republicans hold a favorable view of their party.

“The GOP brand seems old to people — pointed toward the past and not the future,” said Bruce Haynes, a Republican strategist with the firm. “That means people are not ready to trust the GOP to provide leadership to take us into the future.”

The self-identified Republicans surveyed were unified in their disapproval of President Obama but expressed substantial concerns about the GOP, Haynes said.

“They wish it spoke differently, felt differently,” he said.

By comparison, 87 percent of Democrats view their party favorably. The poll found little difference in support between conservative Republicans (66 percent favorable) and moderate Republicans (63 percent favorable).

Priebus told committee members that the party can “stand by our timeless principles” but articulate them differently, in order to make the message “relevant to our time and relatable to the majority of voters.”

“The good news is our principles are sound. We stand for opportunity and for liberty,” he said. “We can unite Americans around our values if we prove we can take them to a better place. So we must take our message to all voters and to every state.”

To do so, Priebus said, the party must develop its technological capabilities and “train activists, volunteers and candidates with the modern tools of a modern party.” He urged those who left the party to reconsider and said new members would be welcomed “with open doors and open arms.”

Many committee members in Charlotte said Priebus is a competent, capable chairman, despite divisions in the party among Libertarians, Tea Party types and Establishment Republicans.

“He has been tremendous and will remain so,” said Mississippi Republican Chairman Henry Barbour.

Ohio's chairman, Bob Bennett, said Priebus did “an excellent job” leading the RNC for the past two years.

“We have our work cut out for us in Ohio in 2014 (elections) and I am looking forward to working with him — most importantly, growing the party at the grassroots level,” Bennett said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who spoke to RNC members on Thursday, praised Priebus' fundraising skill and his ideas to sell conservatism.

“We should be able to go any place in America, listen to what (people's) hopes and dreams are and offer them a better future,” Gingrich said.

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at szito@tribweb.com.

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