October 28th, 2012
11:04 AM ET
10 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. Rick McDaniel

    He's right. The Dems want to turn minor gaffes into major ones, while the most major gaffe of all, is that Obama is even IN the WH. Obama is the worst disaster to impact this country, in political history.

    October 28, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. Sharon

    I strongly dislike how an issue (abortion) that should not be in the political arena at all has these small minded, evil mouthed men addressing what should be done. I am pro-choice and that means supporting someone no matter what their decision is. I have had friends choose both to continue a pregnancy and to terminate one. Neither decision was made lightly. Those who had involved partners made the decision jointly. Most of them made the decision after consulting with a religious person. Once Mitt selected Ryan, I could not even look at Romney. I also have a problem understanding why someone whose church (LDS) is against abortion and also invitro fertlization, can have a son who has not only used invitro but a surrogate mother for the birth of 3 of his 6 children. You do not hand pick which church tenets you support.

    October 28, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. Paulcat

    SMALL ? The other republican voters really need to start thinking for themselves. It is so sad as to what they have become. All because there's a black man in the white house. Sooo honor to be an American? "SAD"

    October 28, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. Melissa Twomey

    Thank you Chairman Priebus! Thank you, thank you for mentioning the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of four Americans. You are truly the only one on this network, that has remotely mentioned Benghazi. Wonder why?

    October 28, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. Angie

    Rape is just a "small brush fire." Who needs the Taliban when America has the Tea/Republicans?

    October 28, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    The biggest brush fire Priebus should be worrying about is spending Nov. 7th explaining away the huge AA, Latino, young adult, and white women turnout for President Obama, and why Mr. Obama won the election ... again.

    Shame on Mitt Romney and Republicans for trying to keep people from voting ... for whatever reason. This is America, not some third world country where the vote is suppressed to benefit one political side over the other.

    October 28, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  7. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Isn't brushfires that start larger problems? I think that these two senate candidates are going to cause some woment to really look at who makes up the Republican party. Do they really look after the needs of women? It doesn't look like it.

    October 28, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  8. Gurgyl

    Drive these GOP thugs out..yes, on obama12.

    October 28, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  9. Willie Floyd

    Romney would have to "fix" the economy in order to pay for his 1st war.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    October 28, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. Jason Nesmith

    I kinda agree with Priebus. I don't think these GOP statements on rape are an accident or a slip of the toungue.

    But I do believe they have a lot to do with a burning bush.

    October 28, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    How many small brush fires does it take before the whole forest is on fire? Imbeciles.

    October 28, 2012 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. Howard

    Priebus is now the face on the poster that shows the country and the world just how extreme the GOP has allowed itself to become. Priebus sat there on national TV and displayed such an utter nonchalantness to the extreme religious and misogynistic stances some of his party's important candidates have taken. This was of course in addition to the explicit racial prejudices that were clearly demonstrated by the Romney campaign Co-Chair John Sununu. The really sad thing about all this is that Priebus is right, it won't matter for the GOP because this is the America they represent. This is the America that ignores the bigger picture because it is too complicated and because FOX says it isn't really the important information. This is the America that believes that "inalienable rights and freedoms" only apply to them. This the America that has distilled the Presidential race down to a belief that anybody, even a confirmed liar, draft dodger, and opportunist like Romney is better than the "Muslin, Kenyan, racially impure, Socialist, Communist, Marxist" black man currently in the oval office. This is the America that Priebus, Sununu, Romney, Ryan, Mourdock, Akin, Norquist, McConnell, et al are counting on.

    October 28, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  13. Anthony

    Romney has run a bad campaign. He has done nothing right except the first debate. He was essentially an empty chair at the third debate. One debate is not enough to win.

    October 28, 2012 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
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