Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, calling questions about President Barack Obama’s citizenship “a big distraction,” said his party’s presidential candidates are dropping it.
“I’ve said from the very beginning that I think it’s a big distraction,” Priebus said on “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing on Bloomberg Television this weekend.
Texas Governor Rick Perry was “badgered” by interviewers to raise the issue, Priebus suggested.
Perry told Parade magazine last week that “I don’t have any idea” whether Obama’s U.S. birth certificate is authentic. After calling it “a distractive issue,” he appeared on CNBC Oct. 25 and said “it’s a good issue to keep alive.”
A day later, he told the St. Petersburg Times he wasn’t “expressing doubts” about where Obama was born and “was just having some fun” with real estate developer Donald Trump, who had questioned the president’s citizenship.
Obama released his long-form birth certificate in April showing his birthplace, Honolulu, Hawaii. “We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” Obama said at the time.
Perry was “badgered about 20 times on the question,” Priebus said. “That was the result of a serious peppering.”
Democrats will pay a price for the public’s anti-Washington mood, the Republican chairman said, predicting that his party’s presidential nominee will win the White House and the party will capture the Senate and hold the House.
“The Democrats are going to suffer because there’s an identifiable head,” he said. “If the president gets beaten, he will drag down the rest of the Democratic Party.”
Unlike President Harry Truman in 1948, Obama won’t have success campaigning against a “do-nothing Congress,” Priebus said, because of the state of the American economy. The U.S. unemployment rate averaged 3.8 percent in 1948; so far this year, joblessness has averaged 9 percent.
“The economy is continuing to climb into the ditch,” Priebus said. “This president has a real problem. He’s in love with the sound of his own voice and can’t follow through on his promises.”
Priebus also played down the impact of public dissatisfaction with his party, with a Bloomberg National Poll showing 53 percent of respondents holding a negative view of the Republican Party.
Obama’s job-creation proposals have met with Republican opposition on Capitol Hill. Senate Republicans prevented the president’s $447 billion jobs plan from reaching the floor for a vote Oct. 11. Republican lawmakers almost unanimously opposed Obama’s $825 billion stimulus package in 2009, which the Congressional Budget Office said at its peak increased the number of employed Americans by 1.4 million to 3.6 million.
As befits a party chairman, Priebus remained neutral about his party’s presidential candidates.
Priebus said he had no problem with Perry’s intentions of skipping some debates, saying “having 50 more debates in two months is a little unreasonable.”
He said Herman Cain, a former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, has experience as a successful businessman and is“making a lot of sense on the campaign trail.”
As for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s comments to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the U.S. should let the home mortgage foreclosure process “run its course and hit the bottom,” Priebus said taxpayer money shouldn’t be used for bailouts. He said Obama “hasn’t done anything about this problem for three years.”
“The idea that big government in Washington, D.C., should pick winners and losers and be into the finance game that private companies should be involved in is a losing strategy,” Priebus said.
Even as political action committees that can collect unlimited donations are on the increase, Priebus said the political parties will play a major role in the 2012 election.
“The parties still do something that no one else can do, and that’s put the army on the ground,” the chairman said. “Both of these national parties are going to raise record amounts and the activism is going to be through the roof.”