Priebus on Romney: 'Not the best week'

CNN
Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 6:05pm

(CNN) -- The Republican National Committee chairman on Sunday said Mitt Romney could have had a better week, but he hit President Barack Obama for not being serious enough on the campaign trail.

Reince Priebus described the emergence of secretly recorded video featuring Romney making controversial comments at a May fund-raiser as a "defining" moment.

"It probably wasn't the best-said, you know, moment in the campaign and probably not the best week in the campaign," Priebus said on ABC's "This Week."

He continued: "But I will say that I think we can look back at last week as a campaign in a couple months and say, this was the defining week in both campaigns, where I think both campaigns are crystallizing around a central theme, which is going to be, what kind of future do we want for our kids and grandkids?"

In the video, Romney argued nearly half of Americans are "victims" who are dependent on the government because they don't pay federal income taxes.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that for tax year 2011, 46% of households ended up owing nothing in federal income taxes. But if payroll taxes are counted, the number of nonpayer households drops precipitously - to an estimated 18% in 2011.

Last week, Romney said his comments were "off the cuff" and "not elegantly stated," but he defended the main message of his remarks.

"We have a very different approach - the president and I - between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams," Romney said.

That difference, Priebus argued, came to the forefront of the campaign last week, as Romney's comments further fueled the debate over entitlement spending. Most notably, strong intraparty disagreements took place over Romney's comments, with some Republicans coming to his defense, while others, including some Senate candidates and influential conservative columnist Peggy Noonan, took highly critical positions on the Republican presidential nominee's remarks.

Priebus, however, said the Republican Party was not at a crossroads.

"I promise you on my life, I'm not sitting here talking to you because I'm worried about the future of the Republican Party," the RNC chairman said.

Pivoting the discussion, Priebus said Obama acts as though he's "entitled to four more years" and argued the president should be more focused on the economy and national security.

"I think he should worry about intelligence briefings, getting the economy back on track, instead of debate prep and, you know, interviews with, you know, Pimp with the Limp and meetings with Jay-Z and Beyoncé," Priebus said. "I think he needs to get serious."

Obama attended a fund-raiser hosted by the famed hip-hop couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles last week in New York City. Priebus was also referring to Obama's interview with Miami's "Pimp with the Limp" DJ Laz, which was pretaped and aired on September 11.

On the same program Sunday, senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod took issue with Priebus' characterization of the last few days.

"Well, I don't know what prism he's looking through. I don't think anybody else would define it as a good week. But it was an enlightening week," Axelrod said.

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