J.C. Watts as RNC Chairman? Republicans say no way
December 3rd, 2012
11:47 AM ET
10 years ago

J.C. Watts as RNC Chairman? Republicans say no way

(CNN) - The prospect of former congressman J.C. Watts leading the Republican National Committee was met with chuckles by members of the organization Monday, who said that current chairman Reince Priebus is all-but-guaranteed to be re-elected to his post next month.

Watts, a former Oklahoma congressman who for a time in the 1990s was the only African-American Republican serving in the U.S. House, told Politico over the weekend that he is being "encouraged" by Republicans to seek the RNC chairmanship.

Watts chided the GOP for "old, tired, pathetic" efforts at minority outreach, but he stopped short of openly criticizing Priebus or declaring his intention to seek the chairmanship.

Members of the 168-person RNC, however, were quick to pop the Watts trial balloon on Monday, dismissing the idea with a mixture of skepticism, disbelief and even a hint of ridicule.

"A little late to the party?" cracked one RNC member.

Bruce Ash, national committeeman from Arizona, said "an overwhelming number" of RNC members believe Priebus should remain for another two-year term.

"Reince did a great job leading us out of the abyss," Ash told CNN. "I know he'll do a great job moving forward. I'm sure if J.C. wants to get involved he'll have an opportunity like many people in the coming months and years."

Another influential RNC member, asked about the Watts story, said in an email: "He'd have no prayer ... I gotta believe J.C. won't run unless it's just to get attention."

While Republican nominee Mitt Romney lost his presidential bid and the RNC's voter turnout operation took a beating on Election Day, Priebus is credited with repairing the dismal financial state of the party, which was more than $22 million in debt when he took over.

Former Indiana national committeeman Jim Bopp, a longtime conservative voice inside the organization, said Priebus “has overwhelming support for reelection as chairman” thanks largely to his fundraising prowess.

"There is plenty of blame to go around after this loss but Reince does not share in much of it," Bopp said. "He did his job - very well."

Sources on the committee say Priebus and his supporters have locked down at least 120 votes for re-election and perhaps as many as 150 confirmed supporters – far beyond the 85-vote simple majority needed to win.

With such full-bodied support, a challenge to Priebus, particularly from a committee outsider like Watts, seems unlikely.

Some Priebus supporters on the committee say the Watts-as-chairman storyline is at best a vanity project for the former college quarterback, and at worst a low-grade effort by former RNC Chairman Michael Steele to tweak Priebus, a former Steele ally-turned-rival who ousted the controversial ex-chairman from his post in early 2011.

Their evidence for the latter claim: Watts' business partner, Elroy Sailor, is married to Angela Sailor, a top official at the RNC during Steele's tenure there.

Another Watts business partner, Paul Welday, circulated the Politico story late Sunday evening in an email to GOP activists and political operatives.

"Former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts is seriously considering a run for the Chairmanship of the RNC," Welday wrote in the email, which was provided to CNN by a Republican who received it. "I hope you'll take a look at the attached article, share it with others and let me know how you feel about the idea."

Time is running out for Watts if he is serious about a launching a bid.

The RNC will vote on the chairmanship at its Winter Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina in late January. With the holiday season approaching, that leaves little time to assemble a whip team and begin drumming up support inside the committee membership.

RNC sources said Priebus is planning to publicly announce his re-election team in the coming days.

He will also roll out a team of officials to preside over a "four-year plan" for the Republican Party, sources said, an initiative related to the much-discussed GOP "autopsy" that Priebus called for in the aftermath of Romney's defeat.

Filed under: RNC
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. mgctampa

    By all means relect Reince, after all the convention was such a winner lol.

    December 3, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  2. Jerubbaal

    Too late JC, they already had their token chairman.

    December 3, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  3. Sandy

    Why would Watts audition to be the GOP's next token? Probably because blacks in the GOP get pushed to the front of the line if they are willing to talk down to other African-American and to spout the crazy tea party rhetoric. See Cain and West. If you show moderation, sanity and intelligence, you get booted out (see Steele).

    December 3, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  4. Laverne

    Michael Steele led the republicans to a massive win in 2010 and he gets NO credit for it, mainly because he spoke his mind and would not allow the powers to be to make a puppet out of him. Poor JC must be delusional if he thinks the RNC would ever vote another Black for this position, it just ain't gonna happen!

    December 3, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    Tokenism is alive and well!

    December 3, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. PaulCat

    Sorry Watts, they don't need you now. They already used Micheal Steele. Obama will be out in 4 years. Now they're going back to there own kind. "SORRY"

    December 3, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    They should pick Mitt Romney.

    December 3, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    Translation. The funny sounding name man did a marvelous job in NC and other states hiring sprouls(sp?) to rig the election and he has become such a liar that why change horses in midstream.
    Translation #2, we already tried a Black man, Steele who actually sounds intelligent and willing to tell it like it is, and that didn't work for us to bring in that perceived 47% + 4% in 201/.

    December 3, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    My, my. How quickly people have forgotten the main reasons for Steele not continuing as RNC chairman. His term was marked by several scandals involving wasted money: elaborate junkets, expensive meals and entertainment, etc.

    December 3, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Steele was fired mainly because he couldn't bring in funds to the RNC but yet the same Republicans contributed to Preibus. Of course the RNC won't hire Watts because there would be only one reason left to fire him and that would be too obvious.

    December 3, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. Dannytelevision

    What about choosing Karl "Turdblossom" Rove?

    December 3, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Al-NY,NY

    Definitely keep RP there GOP..he did SUCH A GREAT JOB this time around.......(snicker)

    December 3, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. rs

    The GOP has itself on track for a major crash. Why would they want to change anything?

    December 3, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  14. Thomas

    Reince is at the top of his game. Why fire him now when he doing such a great job ?

    Kidd Rock would be a great leader for the Republican National Committee .

    "But I believe if you don't stand for something, you don't stand for nothing,"

    December 3, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. Jill singleo

    They already had one black man this century – no need to go overboard. And they won't be running against a black man next time.

    December 3, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    As much as I despise Priebus, I hope he get's re-elected. He is precisely the problem with the Republican Party. All he does is come up with stupid anologies to demonize people. See how far that gets you in 2014 republicans.

    December 3, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Steele was fired mainly because he couldn't bring in funds to the RNC but yet the same Republicans contributed to Preibus.
    Steele set fund raising records. His SPENDING was completely off message.

    December 3, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  18. GonzoinHouston

    Don't be so quick to automatically hang the "racist" label on the GOP. Herman Cain and Allen West are proof that the GOP will accept people of color, providing they are far enough out to the right and willing to suspend their recognition of reality. Republicans don't hate Obama because he is black; they hate him because he is not a republican president.

    December 3, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. Mark Acay

    JC knows what happened to M Steele. A black person does not have a place in the Republican party much more the top leadership. Any non-white members are just NUMBERS. America has but all lose the post-racial progress it has earned since the election of Pres Obama in'08. This country is back to the old Jim Crowe days.

    December 3, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |