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Republican Party Chairman: 'This Will Be Just Fine'

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, says current conflicts between candidates won't affect the GOP's strength in the general election.
J. Scott Applewhite
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, says current conflicts between candidates won't affect the GOP's strength in the general election.

In a battle for the Republican Party's conservative base, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are exchanging heavy blows, with Trump most recently threatening to sue Cruz over a political advertisement.

But in the midst of this fierce contest for the Republican nomination, the party's top official, Reince Priebus, says it's not his role to referee the drama.

"As the ball gets rolling downhill in these states, it has a way of ending some of these food fights that you're seeing across the country," he told NPR's Robert Siegel. Trump has asked for the party to intervene in his quest to have Cruz remove a political ad, which shows archival footage of Trump describing himself as "very pro-choice" in 1999.

"We're not gonna get involved in commenting and quarterbacking analysis of campaign advertisements," Priebus said.

Trump's undeterred march toward the White House sparks many questions about the direction of the Republican Party; in particular, whether it will be able to effectively reach Latino voters in a general election. Polls show most Latino voters negatively view Trump, who launched his campaign by labeling immigrants from Mexico as criminals and rapists.

Trump's strategy would seem to be at complete odds with a 2013 report commissioned by the Republican National Committee, which found Republicans could no longer be competitive in presidential elections without reaching a much larger portion of Latino voters. Since that report, the RNC has increased its Latino outreach efforts.

"Is your effort to connect with Latinos dead if Trump's the nominee?" Siegel asked.

"I don't think our effort is dead at all," Preibus said. "These candidates will talk to those communities, will answer questions, will have plenty of time to campaign and obviously tell them why they'd be a better choice than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. And it's gonna be up to them to make sure that that ship is put on the right course."

Preibus said today's political back-and-forth will not be a concern to voters in the general election.

"Next month will feel like next year," he said. "And June and July will feel like 10 years from now. This will be just fine, and we will move on. And we'll get to a nominee. We'll go to the convention, and we'll be unified, and we'll beat the Democrats."

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Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
Will Huntsberry is an assistant producer in NPR's elections unit, where he produced a piece about Don Gonyea's favorite campaign trail playlists, reported on the one place in Washington where former House Speaker John Boehner could feel like "a regular guy," and other stories that get beneath the surface of American politics.
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