Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Friday sought to tamp down a growing controversy over the process for selecting the party’s presidential nominee, saying he doesn’t want candidates to think they got “screwed” by the system.
Reacting to public calls from a national committeeman from North Dakota to open the nomination to any candidate who won even a single delegate, Preibus said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that major rules changes are unlikely. He noted that those rules will be written by the delegates, about 80 percent of whom will be pledged to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.
“If they were going to make any changes to the rules, why wouldn’t they — they’re not going to make them looser,” he said. “If they were going to make changes, they’d probably buckle them down.”
Priebus will have a hand in the direction of the convention. As chairman of the party, he picks the chairmen of key convention committees, include ones that write the rules and the party’s platform. He said he will name those chairmen soon, but added that he would oppose major changes from 2012.
“My main thing, Laura, is I’ve got to get this party to be unified, and the only way I think that that’s going to happen is if the candidates just focused in on votes,” he said. “Do they have the votes or don’t they? I don’t want the candidates worried about that, you know, they got screwed because someone put in some sentence somewhere in the rules at the last second, and that’s the reason they won or lost. It’s gotta’ be all about the votes.”
Priebus said the Republican Party has operated under similar rules for more than a century. In the early years, the nominee emerged solely from the national convention. Over time, the primary and caucus system evolved to broaden participation in the process. Controversy has arisen from unfamiliarity with the process, he said. In most primary battles, the nominee takes control long before the primary season is over.
“This is a very democratic process, but it’s something … that most people never cared about,” he said.
For all of Trump’s complaining about the unfairness of the rules, Priebus said, the real estate mogul has benefited from them. He pointed to Florida, where Trump won less than half of the votes but claimed all 99 delegates.
“Trump’s received some great benefits from the system, as well,” he said.