RNC Chairman Reince Priebus reaffirmed the Republican party’s opposition to same-sex marriage Wednesday, saying the GOP’s attempt to improve its image will not mean a change in the Republican platform anytime soon.
Republicans released a 98-page post-election report Monday that argues the party needs to reach out to “Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.” But Priebus told MSNBC’s Luke Russert that doesn’t mean a change in the party’s belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. The party chairman, who turned 41 this week, said the Republican platform is not likely to change its position on marriage in the next decade, by the time he turns 50. “Well, I don’t know what’s going to happen in nine years,” Priebus said. “I know what our principles are, and I know our party believes marriage is between one man and one woman. But I also know our party’s going to be inclusive, and it’s going to listen to people and it’s going to allow differences of opinion in our party.”
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman became the latest Republican to break from the party platform last week when he said publicly that he supports same-sex marriage, after learning his 19-year-old son Will is gay. Priebus said the RNC would continue to support the Ohio senator, who was one of the original authors of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). ”I was asked at the National Press Club….’Are you still going to fund Rob Portman?’ And my response was, of course we’re going to help Rob Portman. He’s a good conservative Republican.”
Priebus ducked a question on whether House Republican leaders should continue to spend federal money to defend DOMA in court. “I’m not going to get into this sort of back and forth with leadership but what I will tell you is, I think our party needs to have the attitude that if I disagree with you on one issue, it doesn’t mean you’re a lousy Republican.” In January, Republican leaders committed to spending up to $3 million dollars to defend the federal same-sex marriage ban.
Republican hand-wringing has been on display this week, and Priebus delivered a dose of tough love, saying, “The fact is our party’s had a tough time over the last 24 years winning decisive presidential elections, and it’s our job as a party to get to the bottom of why that is.” But though he said at a Monday news conference that “the perception that we’re the party of the rich continues to grow,” Priebus said he does not believe legislation like Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget are to blame for the party’s historically low approval ratings. “What we found in the election is that while we’re winning those arguments on spending and math,” he said, “we’re losing sort of this emotional, cultural vote out there in presidential elections.”
In 2012 presidential exit polls, Mitt Romney had a narrow two-point advantage on who would better handle the federal deficit, an issue where Republicans historically have an advantage. But six in ten voters said taxes should be increased either on everyone or for those making more than $250,000 a year. President Obama won the economic values question, “Who is more in touch with people like you?” by ten points. The RNC report argues “the perception that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years.”
Priebus also responded to former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who has leveled several jabs at him. On Monday, Priebus noted that the RNC’s two credit cards had both been suspended when he took over from Steele as chairman. On a radio show Tuesday, Steele fired back, “The national party is too big for its own britches right now. It’s centered the universe around itself out of DC….I was laughing at some of these numb nuts after the election talking about, ‘Oh, we need a 50 state strategy.’ Dude, where were you for 2009 and 2010? That’s exactly what we did.’”
Then on Morning Joe Wednesday, Steele continued, “How does Reince Priebus reconcile his approach and his agreement with voter registration policies that many in the black community view as anti-black [and] racist?” Priebus declined to directly engage Steele on The Daily Rundown, but said, “The fact of the matter is, you have to have the resources to be able to have an effective ground operation in minority communities, and one of the things that we’ve done at the RNC, and I don’t think anyone argues with this, is that we’ve brought our financial condition back in order.”