The head of the Republican Party said Sunday that he thinks that — despite polls suggesting otherwise — Donald Trump will win the election. And he played down Trump's controversial claim that the election is rigged, saying that Trump has the right to reserve his options.
“He is going to win,” Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, told CBS's John Dickerson on Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “Because I think people have had enough.”
But instead of pushing a message of change in Washington, Trump has been mired in controversy over the past week about whether he would accept the election's results. Trump has said he would do so — if he wins. (Not to mention the threat Trump made Saturday to sue the 11 women who have accused him of groping or sexual assault.)
Dickerson asked Priebus whether he agrees with Trump's refusal to say that he will accept the election results. Priebus, one of the highest-profile Republicans left defending Trump since House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) broke with Trump, minimized the nominee's “rigged” claims.
“What I think the media is missing here is that, to ask a candidate three weeks before the election if they are going to concede — asking for a concession speech — no one does that,” Priebus said. “And I think if . . . you lose by 200 votes in Florida, are you going to concede on election night if you're at 260 electoral votes?”
Dickerson challenged Priebus's interpretation of Trump's hesitation to accept the results of the election. This comes in the context of Trump's claiming in increasingly heated rhetoric that the election is “rigged,” Dickerson pointed out.
“But his mouth is in a different place than where you think his head is,” Dickerson said. “He said if he loses Pennsylvania, a state Republicans haven't won since '88, it will only be because the state was stolen from him.”
Priebus: “I don't think that's where he's at. That's not where I'm at. Losing by 100 votes is one thing. Losing by 100,000 votes is another thing. I think we can be reasonable on this issue.”
Priebus went on to try to explain that if you put yourself in the mind-set of Trump — a sense that the media is hyper-focused on his campaign instead of Clinton's — it's relatively easy to suspect voter fraud and a rigged election.
He said, “I think if you're Donald Trump, and if you see the barrage and media implosion on every single thing this guy does, no matter what it is. He eats cornflakes in the morning, and CNN or another cable news show, MSNBC, is talking about it 24 hours a day. If you look at Hillary Clinton, what she's gotten away with on this email scandal, when you have General Cartwright going to potentially prison for doing one-tenth of her --" Dickerson then tried to interject.
Priebus responded, “Listen, I'm trying to put you in the mind of a person who's running for president who sees this unbelievable world around him and then you do hear about fraud at the ballot box, and you say: 'You know what? I'm going to preserve all options.'”
Priebus also backed off comments he made on “Face the Nation” a month ago that Republicans who don't support Trump could be punished. Such Republicans would probably include Ryan, a good friend of Priebus who said after the second presidential debate that he won't defend or campaign for Trump anymore.
“I think these are things we're going to look at after the election,” Priebus said, later adding that Ryan is “a great Republican.” “But we expect to win, and unifying the party is always the job of the chairman, so we're going to leave that for another time.”