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Reince Priebus makes a mess in Ohio and upsets a top Republican whose help he can't afford to lose

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Reince Priebus makes a mess in Ohio and upsets a top Republican whose help he can't afford to lose

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus gavels the Republican National Convention to order Monday, July 18, 2016, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (John Locher, The Associated Press)

By Henry J. Gomez, cleveland.com


September 20, 2016 at 11:39 AM , updated September 20, 2016 at 3:40 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Reince Priebus has an Ohio problem.

Let us count the ways.

  • Priebus then presided over a Cleveland convention that left Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges and other Buckeye State delegates feeling slighted by pettiness.
  • Meanwhile, the RNC has no communications director here – an unusual deficiency given Ohio's battleground status. The first person who had the job left, in part, because he could not stomach supporting Trump's brand of bigotry. The second person who had the job bolted after two weeks and a big fight with Trump's state director. No one is beating down the door to be the third.
  • And now Priebus is picking at the scab. During a TV appearance Sunday, he warned that Kasich's refusal to endorse Trump could trigger party penalties if Kasich runs for president again. That drew outrage from Borges and from Kasich's political strategist, John Weaver.

Priebus' problem, at the moment, is not Trump's problem. Recent Ohio polls show Trump has climbed to a slight lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton. But friction between the RNC-Trump faction and in-state Republicans is hardly ideal in a presidential election year.

Upsetting Borges is a risk Priebus cannot afford to take. The staunch Kasich ally has helped the Trump team find its footing in the state, even as many of the governor's other loyalists refused to play a part in the campaign. Borges, according to GOP sources, often speaks with Trump before an Ohio visit and counsels him on what to say – and, more importantly, what not to say.

Borges also has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Priebus. That speculation had been based on buzz that Priebus would step aside after the November election. But the national chairman has hinted he might try to keep the job. It's better for him to have Borges, who has Kasich's backing and good relationships in the national party, as a friend than as a foe.

"No," Borges wrote in a message posted to Twitter after Priebus' televised threat. "This is not what we are all about as a party. Besides, let's stay focused on 2016 for the next 50 days."

No. This is not what we are all about as a party. Besides, let's stay focused on 2016 for the next 50 days.https://twitter.com/dcexaminer/status/777540495115489282

On Monday, Borges said he would not give serious thought to the RNC chairmanship until after the November election. But he said so by telephone from Chicago, where he was tagging along at Republican fundraisers with another Kasich ally, Rep. Pat Tiberi of the Columbus area. Borges noted that the trip included face time with Illinois' RNC committee members.

Priebus had not reached out to apologize as of Tuesday morning.

"I just want to believe that it was not a good moment," Borges said. "He got asked a question that he could have just easily brushed aside, and instead he answered it, maybe because he's frustrated. ... I don't want to even be perceived as being overly critical of Reince. But John Kasich is the governor. And whether that would be good for me for being the [national] chairman or not good for me being the chairman, I am going to defend him."

Priebus remains angry that Kasich has not endorsed Trump, despite pledging during the primaries to back the eventual nominee. Borges said Priebus expressed irritation after Kasich met with Democratic President Barack Obama at the White House last week to urge support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a foreign trade deal Trump has vehemently opposed.

"The last person you should be lashing out at is the guy who created an environment for Republicans to thrive in Ohio," Borges said of Kasich, who has high job-approval ratings and remains popular after a landslide re-election victory in 2014. "They're frustrated. I get that. But that's the lay of the land. Go out there and run the race you can without him."

Priebus' embrace of Trump has been one of this election's biggest puzzles. He justifies his support as following the will of the Republican voters and delegates who nominated Trump. But, with few exceptions, Priebus essentially has blessed Trump's lies and offensive comments.


The content available on a site dedicated to bringing folks to America should not be promoting racial discord, euro-supremacy, discrimination based on religion , exclusion of groups from immigration based on where they were born, disenfranchisement of voters rights based on how they might vote.


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