Reince Priebus is staking his legacy as Republican National Committee chairman on improving the party’s performance with minority voters.
“I just sort of reached a boiling point on the issue,” Priebus told The Hill in an interview at RNC headquarters on Friday. “I want to fix these problems.”
In the 2012 election, President Obama won 93 percent of the black vote, 71 percent of the Hispanic vote and 73 percent of the Asian vote, helping him coast to a victory over Republican Mitt Romney.
Priebus says he plans on being remembered as the Republican chairman who changed things for his party.
“Our legacy is going to be that we were the RNC that actually turned the talk into action and cared most about moving the dial, not a couple of good stories that we could spin out and have a few good days here and there, but have a long-lasting change for the future of our party and our country,” he said in an interview.
Priebus spoke shortly after an RNC event saluting “black Republican trailblazers” at the Capitol Hill Press Club. Speaking to a room full of predominantly black businessmen, community leaders, party activists and dignitaries, Priebus said he was committed to “building long term, lasting, genuine, and authentic relationships” in places where the Republican Party “just hasn’t been.”
“We’re here because we know we need to grow our party,” Priebus told the group. “We must take our message to every neighborhood and every community, and as we know, we’ve got a lot of ground to make up with the black community.”
The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project is taking a two-pronged approach in addressing these challenges—one that focuses on micro-targeted community-based outreach, and one that communicates a more positive broader message that voters can connect with emotionally.
The RNC’s grassroots overhaul will address everything from “technology, data sharing, demographic issues, voter outreach and inclusion, to our primary system and the debate calendar,” an effort that Priebus said would be “extraordinarily expensive.”
“In order to start winning presidential elections, I think we have to start winning over people’s hearts,” Priebus said. “It’s an emotional vote and it’s a cultural vote. I think at times we divorce ourselves from the culture. We shouldn’t.”
Priebus acknowledges it will take time for these new initiatives to gain traction and for these new messages to sink in.