Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus applauded Wisconsin’s government as a national model for the Republican Party and addressed party priorities Sunday.
On WISN’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” Priebus said Wisconsin GOP’s open door policy to all members of the party, from Tea Party members to conservatives to moderates, was a model example for the national party.
“We have a great model in Wisconsin,” Priebus said on the program, which WisPolitics.com produces. “The reason why the party succeeds in Wisconsin is that you have total respect for everybody in the party.”
Priebus also said Republicans need to branch out to traditionally blue swing states during future elections to regain their former position as a powerful party.
He said it was also important for the party to work together and fight for deserved support nationwide in response to the last election.
“We’ve entered into the world of permanent politics,” Priebus said. “Instead of whining about it, it’s time for our party to join in and become a granular, coast-to-coast operation, in the community. And I think that is a mental shift for our party.”
University of Wisconsin political science professor David Canon agreed the GOP should branch out to blue states, but questioned whether Wisconsin was a good example for the party to follow.
Canon said the state government has seen increased polarization, reflected in Wisconsin’s status as a battleground state. He said many public opinion polls demonstrate people are much more in favor of bipartisanship and compromise in their government, and polarization is not a way to attract independents and moderates.
At the moment, Gov. Scott Walker’s strength does not lie in reaching out to the middle, Canon said. Rather, Canon said he is popular among Tea Party Republicans who stand their ground and do not compromise. He said upcoming legislation will be more indicative of which direction Walker will choose to move toward the left or further toward the right.
Expanding Medicaid with federal money would be a good signal of this direction, Canon said. He said If Walker decides to accept the funding, this may signify he is trying to move more toward the center as a model for blue state expansion.
However, if he rejects these funds, it may indicate he wants to retain Republican base support with a vision for a potential presidential candidacy, he said.
Common Cause in Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck pointed to the partisan nature of this argument and said it is understandable that Priebus, as Chairman of the RNC, would support Walker and his administration’s policies.
Heck also said Wisconsin government’s polarization is hurting Walker’s primary goal of bringing jobs to Wisconsin. Companies do not want to relocate to a state with so much division, he said.
Priebus likely advocated for reaching out to blue states because of former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s defeat in Wisconsin during the 2012 presidential election, Heck said.
“[Wisconsin government] must be less divisive and more inclusive,” he said. “Walker must reach out to blue and move closer to the center. Right now he’s talking the talk. Words are cheap. He must do it through his actions.”
Heck said reaching a bipartisan agreement on immigration reform would be a huge contender for blue state support. If Republicans could be seen as more moderate and less harsh on immigration, it might help them glean more support, he added.