October 28th, 2012
11:04 AM ET
6 years ago

Priebus: GOP missteps are 'small brush fires'

(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus characterized a recent series of gaffes made by Republicans - concerning rape and, more recently, race - as “small brush fires” that add up to a distraction from the main issues of the election.

“You want people to be disciplined, and obviously if people misspeak and they cause, for no apparent reason, small brush fires on their own, that’s a distraction. But, overall, this is still an election about the economy,” Priebus told CNN's Candy Crowley on “State of the Union” on Sunday.

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Two GOP U.S. Senate candidates have tripped over the issue of abortion as it relates to pregnancies resulting from rape.

Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri first ignited the debate in August, when he explained to a local television station his opposition to abortions in cases of rape and what he described as the process a woman’s body goes through to terminate a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” Akin quickly apologized for his comments, following a firestorm of criticism from both sides of the aisle, including Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who joined a powerful chorus of GOP politicians calling on Akin to bow out of the race. The embattled Senate candidate, however, vowed to continue and is currently locked in a heated battle with the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

More recently, Richard Mourdock, a Senate hopeful from Indiana, said in a debate that pregnancies that occur as a result of rape are "something that God intended to happen.” Mourdock has since apologized if his comments were misconstrued but accused Democrats of distorting his words.

Then John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire governor, told CNN’s Piers Morgan that former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Barack Obama on Thursday could be party explained by the fact that both are black.

Do these gaffes tarnish the image of the GOP?

“I don’t think any party has a monopoly on gaffes,” said Priebus. “I mean, clearly people running for office misspeak and make mistakes. I think the reality is, Candy, overwhelmingly, I promise you, people out there are not talking about what Richard Mourdock said.”

Asked if the recent missteps have the potential to “trickle up” to the top of the ticket to affect Romney’s chances of winning the White House, Priebus demurred, insisting that the two major issues of the election are the economy and the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of four Americans.

With nine days to go until Election Day, Priebus also expressed confidence in Republicans’ “ground game,” saying that while Democrats have an advantage in early voting, his party is winning in absentee ballots.

“(Democrats) are a fraction of where they were in 2008. They're not where they were in 2008. We’re far ahead of where we were in 2008. Our ground game is better than their ground game,” Priebus said. “We’re going to do more voter contacts this year compared to all of 2008 and all of 2004 combined.”

He continued: "We have an army on the ground.”

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: 2012 • Reince Priebus • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Expat American

    Republicans don’t ‘misspeak’ on issues of racism and rape….their party values are pretty clear and fresh from the sewer.

    October 28, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  2. vic , nashville ,tn

    Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, and Scott walker thinks they are the smart people in Republican Party after the election we have to change the party leaders

    October 28, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  3. Pete

    Priebus and his fellow extreme republicans small missteps,is he kidding or is that ignorent ,its either one or the other..Murdock and his rape comment and Romney refusing to admit his stance is as extreme as Mourdock or Akins and he's hush about it because he'll get the rath of women everywhere on him..His ads for endorsing Mourdock is still there and Romney being arrogent thinking women don't care because its only the economy that drives them,that's more ignorence than arrogence and he'll see how women vote,with their hearts and bodies in mind so don't fool yourself Romney women don't like you or your extreme issues!!

    October 28, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. ronb

    Steele was a crook. This guy is just incompetent. After the election, the GOP needs to send him packing!

    October 28, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  5. Hotdog

    They are more than brush fires. It is a reflection of the entire party concerning those issues. There is no way you can sugar coat it because people are a lot smarter than you think they are.

    October 28, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. joe

    the small brush fires he is talking about add up to a major forest fire. The republican party has turned its back on women. They allow people like trump and limbaugh to have a major voice. It is ok for ann coulter to call the president a retard. Where is the indignation from sister palin. Remember how upset she was about her son. THe republican party has no moral compass and is run by a few rich guys who are looking for tax breaks. Mittens will be beholden to them if elected. 47% of us won't even be recogonized. Wake up . A man that keeps a good portion of his income off shore so he won't have to pay taxes on it is not for America. Someone who is invested in china is not for America. Someone who ships jobs overseas is not for America. What does it take to show the American people where this man stands??? Forward. 20120

    October 28, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  7. Anonymous

    He continued: "We have an army on the ground.”

    We'll see how that "army on the ground" worked out on Nov. 6th, Mr. Priebus. Considering all those "brush" fires your side is consistently having to put out, it'll be interesting.

    Then again, it's been a long, long time since I've given any credence to what comes out of the mouth of Republicans ... or the media. Not since polling during the primaries, anyway. You know. All those wasted polls stating Gingrich, Santorum, Cain, and whoever else was the flavor of the month but actually weren't. It was nothing more than a figment of the Romney campaign pushing a narrative. A very uniformative narrative at that. Same as now. Keep throwing polls out ... most of which are wrong ... and let Romney slide on issue after issue. The media takes up the slack on his behalf - discussing polls. Not issues.

    October 28, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  8. Right Now

    Romney and Obama are tied at 49 percent among likely voters, according to an Ohio News Organization poll. The margin of error in the poll is 3.1 percentage points.

    October 28, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. Obama2012

    George W. Bush has endorsed Romney. He knows that with Romney, his policies will be back, including his foreign policies of starting wars.

    October 28, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  10. Independent Texan

    Surely this guy is delusional! Brush fires.... NOT! These remarks and actions are representative of the GOP. We, the American people, WILL NOT sweep such hate filled, disrespectful actions, under the rug. We deserve better. As each day passes, more and more of these hypocrites are being discovered. I'm glad the American people are smarter than Priebus and his party.

    October 28, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  11. Canuck

    Small brush fires to some. Grossly ignorant comments that give an insight into how the Republicans will run America to others.

    October 28, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. Kevin Wilson

    Of course he's going to characterize these things as unimportant, but at a stage when a fraction of a percentage point will likely mean the difference, anything that could even take a little bit of support away, could be the difference. And you've got to love his transparant tactic of saying the election is aboutthe economy and the attack in Libya. Libya was tragic, but that is not what most voters are going to concern themselves with.

    October 28, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. GOP = Greed Over People!

    You hear that ladies?

    The "leader" of the RNC thinks that having to carry your rapist progeny to term is a "small brush fire".

    The "smart" one in the RNC, Neutered, says you should just "get over it"!

    As a male, it does not matter to me, but I would say vote for the GOP at your own peril.

    October 28, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  14. Ray E. (Georgia)

    It appears everyone has a right to speak but Republicians. Obama, who has spoken of big things he was going to do in his first, (and) last Adminstration seems to be swept under the rug. In these last days Obama has shown the class of the village Idiot. No, the Village Idiot doesn't know any better. Obama?? Say goodbye, it's over.

    October 28, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. jj

    if this "small brush of fires" then i don't want to know what would be an actual fire according to the Republicans

    October 28, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  16. don in albuquerque

    After the election, if Romney should win. I believe it is time to show the Baggers everything we learned from them. That would be endless filibusters, nothing can pass without a super-majority, and endless attacks on the fact that Romey still has not shown taxes, or his birth certificate. Four more years of gridlock commin at ya!!!!

    October 28, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  17. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    "Missteps" day after day and year after year, how stupid do Republicans think Americans are especially Romney saying he doesn't care about 47% of Americans and rape and racism is OK. These opinions aren't missteps especially when they double down on them and refuse to apologize.

    October 28, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  18. Canuck

    Note to Priebus: mispronouncing another country's leaders name in a speech would be a gaffe. Announcing that your party will force a woman to bear her rapists child because it is the will of God is quite another thing. The fact that he does not seem to realise this is very telling.

    October 28, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. rs

    Sure, telling half the human population in the United States are not equal, and in fact, if the GOP has its way will be third class citizens behind men, and zygotes.
    Add in your voter suppression efforts against the elderly, the young and minorities;
    Your hidious record on Civil Rights;
    Your anti-Hispanic record, and:
    I thnk you'll see that just like Mr. Romney'ss lies, your pants are on fire!

    October 28, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. Doingto1

    Florida went to vote lots Romney + tee people right on the steps whit sings telling people hoo to vote for WOW SO sad

    October 28, 2012 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  21. rs

    One last point: Mr. Romney has run the most messed up, incoherent campaign of lies, delusions and gaffes in history. Anyone who thinks this crew can run the country are crazy. That so many who label themselves "Republicans" have bought into this insanity speaks volumes to the lack of morality that permiates this party.

    October 28, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  22. WhereIsPalin

    RYAN / romney 2012.........just a small brush fire?

    October 28, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  23. GOP = Greed Over People!

    News update: On November 7th Rice Princess will say he "misspoke" about small brush fire, it was actually a conflagration!

    October 28, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  24. pkrbkr

    Women, listen up! Do you really want the party in power who has obvious disregard for our rights and bodies.....too many "missteps" and "brush fires" .....and to think that R's could impact the next Supreme Court choice....NO THANKS!!!!!! Obama/Biden 2012

    October 28, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  25. TAK

    Reince is a small man with no grasp of the big job he has.

    October 28, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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