CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Reince Priebus was re-elected as chairman of the Republican National Committee on Friday, garnering the near unanimous support of the 168 RNC voting members.
The challenges facing Priebus as the head of the Republican Party entering the 2014 cycle are different than what he dealt with when he took over in 2011. Then, Priebus was tasked with overhauling RNC operations, including paying off a $24 million debt and rehabilitating its image among GOP donors. But he was buoyed at the time by fresh enthusiasm from big wins in the 2010 midterm elections.
This time around, the RNC is in good shape financially — the committee ended 2012 debt free and with $4.7 million in the bank. But the result of the 2012 elections left the party faithful deflated: The party's brand is in the tank nationally, emerging demographic voting blocs favor the Democrats, and the GOP also finds itself trailing its opposition in the ability to target and turn out voters.
"The task before us now is charting our party’s future. We have an opportunity and responsibility to shape the GOP of the next generation," Priebus said in a speech to RNC committee members following his re-election."We must compete in every state and every region, building relationships with communities we haven’t before. At the RNC we are dropping ‘red’ and ‘blue’ analysis. We must be a party concerned about every American in every neighborhood. We must develop the best technology with the help of the best minds — and train activists, volunteers and candidates with the modern tools of a modern party."
Priebus' unchallenged re-election stood in stark contrast to his first victory as RNC chairman two years ago, when he won a contested race after rounds of voting. Priebus, a lawyer by trade, ran for chairman in 2011 after a successful cycle as Wisconsin GOP chairman that saw Republicans flip a Senate seat, two House seats and the governor's mansion, among other victories.
Whether Priebus can address his party's challenges coming out of the 2012 elections could define his chairmanship. Priebus described his agenda as to "renew our party. Grow our ranks. And win more elections."
Perhaps the good news for the party was that there was a consensus among those who attended the RNC winter meeting in Charlotte that the party needs to modernize and adapt, and there was little evidence of the conflict that marred some of the business sessions that directly preceded last summer's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.