Reince Priebus served as White House chief of staff for President Donald Trump 2017. Former Chairman Republican National Committee 2011 to 2017. Priebus was the longest serving chairman in modern history – serving a total of three terms. It was Priebus who kept the Republican Party from abandoning Trump during the election. He is now President and Chief Strategist for Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
John C: Good morning, America. This is the Cats Roundtable. John Catsimatidis here, Sunday morning. What’s going on around our country? With us this morning is Reince Priebus. Reince was a three terms Republican National Committee chairman, and he was a resident of Wisconsin. Good morning, Reince Priebus. How are you?
Reince Priebus: I’m doing great, John. Good morning. Happy to be back on the show.
John C: Always good to have you. When I read about what’s going on in Wisconsin, I remembered that you are a Wisconsin resident. I said, “Who better to answer the question of what’s going on in Wisconsin than Reince Priebus?” They just had a decision or election. Tell America what’s going on.
Reince Priebus: I think obviously one of the things that people were very disappointed in Wisconsin was the outcome of the governor’s race and losing Scott Walker as governor in Wisconsin. I think people understand all of the reforms that took place in Wisconsin that, that he took the state from almost 10% unemployment to about 2.8% unemployment. A huge turnaround, John. That all came to an end in 2018. People assumed that in a Supreme Court race that a lot of people don’t necessarily follow closely, but that the conservative Brian Hagedorn was going to lose against a liberal judge from Madison, Wisconsin by the name of Lisa Neubauer last Tuesday. That was the assumption. What was the huge shock was that the conservative won. People have been asking the question, what happened? What changed in Wisconsin for this surprise outcome to take place? I can tell you … Go ahead.
John C: No. It’s going back the other way again? That’s all I was going to say.
Reince Priebus: Yeah. Brian Hagedorn won the race. He’s going to be on the Supreme Court for another 10 years. It was an important race, John, because as people might know, all of those reforms that Scott Walker put in place on unions, on wages, on so many questions of life and questions of morality, they were all getting sent up to the Supreme Court. Even the lame duck session where Scott Walker, before he left, appointed different people to different boards, all within his constitutional authority, a judge in Madison started throwing those things out. Brian Hagedorn won. One of the reasons he won, or many of the reasons he won is, number one, the grassroots in Wisconsin finally woke up again and said, “Wait a minute, we didn’t realize how good we had it with Scott Walker. We didn’t realize he was going to lose.” Everyone woke up to that. They saw all the reforms that had taken place and put Wisconsin back on track, those potentially out the window because for the last few months we’ve been watching a liberal governor in Tony Evers put forward a billion dollar tax increase. The people in Wisconsin started seeing that at the same time.
Reince Priebus: Then on top of it, you had a just wonderful person in this Judge Brian Hagedorn and a real moral compass. People saw the difference. People saw his spirit. He was being attacked for his faith left and right. I think all of that stuff combined, having a great candidate in Brian Hagedorn, and two, people seeing this guy’s family, and a wife, and his faith attacked, that all together created this huge surprise there in Wisconsin in having him win this race. It’s a big deal in Wisconsin. It’s something that’s under the radar. A lot of people aren’t following it, but it has spurred up some columns in the Wall Street Journal and other national publications where folks have been noticing this shift back in Wisconsin toward these Walker reforms, small government, rule of law type thinking that Brian Hagedorn brings to the table.
John C: Why did Scott Walker lose? He was a great governor. He did a lot of great things for Wisconsin. What’s your final analysis?
Reince Priebus: My final analysis is that he’d been governor for a long time. I think people had forgotten how bad things were before he was governor. I think people got used to things going pretty darn well in Wisconsin, and jobs were coming back. I think you may recall the Foxconn, one of the biggest jobs announcements in the entire country is going on in Wisconsin. I think all of that had been, this is the way life is now. There’d been a lot of fighting in Wisconsin, as people know. I think people just felt like, “Oh, well, we’ll just kind of change course now and not get too excited about Scott Walker.” I think a lot of people assumed Scott Walker would win, so the enthusiasm level to turn out for Scott wasn’t where it should be. All of that combined created this cocktail of bad news if you’re a Republican, good news if you’re a Democrat. But what happened there created this other feeling that helped Brian Hagedorn keep the Supreme Court seat, which if he would’ve lost, would’ve really undone everything that Scott Walker and his team put in place. In Wisconsin, this is a big deal politically, and it meant a lot. Me being a Republican, it’s great news.
John C: Let’s talk on a national basis. You were Republican national chairman for three terms. Everybody gives you credit for getting President Trump elected. How do you see the 2020 race?
Reince Priebus: Look, it’s always going to be close. It’s always going to be difficult for Republicans to win a national presidential election just based on how the Electoral College is set up. Obviously Donald Trump shattered that general viewpoint. We have to win Wisconsin, Michigan probably for sure. I think we should win Pennsylvania, meaning I’m not saying it’s a must win, but I’ll just say for now we have to win Pennsylvania. We’re likely to have a battle in Arizona, which is new for the Republican party. I think we have to be very careful in Georgia. That’s why I think engaging in black and Hispanic communities in every state is important. Having the president out there talking about his successes are important.
Reince Priebus: I think it’s going to be a challenge. However, you look at what the Democrats are doing, and they’re sitting here talking about why socialism is a good idea in the United States. President Trump is going to seize that and jam it right down their throats. Look who their front runner is. Their front runner is a socialist from Vermont. Honestly, if you were writing a playbook for Donald Trump, you really couldn’t be playing it out any better. Instead of debating Donald Trump, the Democrats are debating socialism, and their front runner is a socialist from Vermont. Actually, it’s unbelievable politically. I think the president is actually in very good shape right now.
John C: You probably have 16 or 17 Democratic candidates. Who do you see as the most moderate, not counting Joe Biden?
Reince Priebus: Maybe Tim Ryan, who threw his hat in the ring on Thursday or Friday it was. I can’t remember if it was Thursday, but maybe it was. Probably Tim Ryan is their most moderate choice besides Joe Biden. I think Joe Biden would be a tough candidate in spite of these recent troubles he’s having. I think he’d be a tough candidate for the Democrats. Other than maybe Joe Biden, Tim Ryan, I think, is interesting. Other than that, I think running against Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, I think some of those folks that are out there right now, Hickenlooper and Inslee, these guys are going to have a hard time in Wisconsin, and Michigan, and Pennsylvania. I don’t see that resonating on top of this universal healthcare talk, and talk about socialism, and free everything. It just isn’t going to work for them. They’re going to really hand the silver platter over to the Republicans. For that, I’m grateful.
John C: Anything else you want to tell America this Sunday morning?
Reince Priebus: Hey, I’ll tell you, John Catsimatidis is a great man, and he comes from a good family. I’m proud that you’re my friend, buddy.
John C: I’m proud that you’re my friend, too. You work hard for America. You helped save America, Reince.
Reince Priebus: We had a good time doing it, and we’ll keep doing it, John. I’ll keep working at it, okay?
John C: Let’s catch up soon. Thank you for, again, coming on.
Reince Priebus: Love to. God bless you. Bye bye.
John C: God bless. This is the Cats Roundtable. We’ll be right back.
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