Reince Priebus has his mind on his money, and his money on his mind.
The Republican National Committee chairman said he dials for dollars about five hours a day, calling different donors to the party in scheduled 15-minute blocks.
“Almost the entire day is spent either raising money, thinking about how to raise money, arguing about money, worried about money or figuring out new ways to raise money,” Priebus told The Daily Caller during an interview at his Capitol Hill offices.
It’s an uphill battle for Priebus, who has to woo donors to help pay down about $19 million in debt and prepare for a 2012 campaign to defeat President Obama. The committee owed $24 million when Priebus took office in January.
“I think that the debt and the financial situation was worse than many of us realized,” he said of taking over from former chairman Michael Steele.
The committee’s members ousted Steele, who recently signed up as an MSNBC contributor, and elected Priebus after complaints about Steele’s commitment to raising money from donors, his stewardship of the committee’s finances and his penchant for being on TV and promoting himself.
“He’s built a strong team, brought in folks from every camp and fundraising is going well,” said Saul Anuzis of Michigan, a national committee member who challenged Priebus for the chairmanship.
Priebus said donors who had abandoned giving to the RNC under Steele have begun writing checks again. The Wisconsinite who is avowedly proud of his Greek heritage claims he actually enjoys fundraising. RNC spokesman Kirstin Kukowski said “he has a mean sales pitch.”
“President Obama is going to raise a billion dollars and we’re going to have to compete with that,” Priebus said.
Despite concerns that no Republican in the presidential race seems to be exciting voters yet, the chairman claims he doesn’t hear those concerns often from donors. He said it’s also possible more Republicans will join the race.
“I hear gossip about who might be getting in, who might not be getting in,” he said. “Like I said before, I think by the end of summer, the field will be set.”
Priebus’ style is markedly much more low-key than his predecessor: “I’m not a person who needs to be the big shot in the room.”
But that doesn’t mean he holds his punches when talking about President Obama and the media, which he says is too cozy with the White House. Asked about Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that includes revamping Medicare, he said: “Barack Obama’s plan, and the plan of the Democrats, is to bankrupt Medicare.”
“He has failed completely in his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term,” Priebus continued. “Have we forgotten about that promise? I haven’t seen a whole lot of reporting on that.”
At the end of the interview, Priebus walked over to his desk and picked up a copy of the Capitol Hill newspaper, The Hill, while shaking his head at a recent story and lamenting “the stupidity of what we have to deal with.”
The headline said “Senate Rejects Ryan Plan” while in much smaller type said, “president’s budget also falters.” The Senate last week voted 97-0 against moving the president’s budget forward while also voting down the GOP House approved plan pushed by Ryan.
“OK, who controls the Senate? Democrats. Of course they’re going to reject the Ryan plan,” he said, suggesting the paper opted for a negative headline for Republicans instead of focusing on the failure to pass a procedural vote on the president’s budget.
“Donald Trump had it right,” Priebus commented, “when he said that the press is in love with President Obama.”