RNC Chair: GOP will pick nominee by April or May

While many pundits think the drag-out fight amongst Republicans for their party's presidential nomination is hurting their eventual nominee, the chairman of the party sees it as a positive development. "I happen to think that a tough primary with a little bit of drama -- I think it's good," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told Bob Schieffer in an interview for Face to Face.

"I just happen to believe everyone talking about our nomination process, every channel, all cable all day long and networks -- I think it's good for us. It's not bad. And so I don't really care one way or the other. I think we're going to be ready to beat Barack Obama," he added.

Preibus says a process that gets all the attention is better than a year when the nominee is named earlier. "I like my chances better under that scenario than four years ago and putting the world to sleep with our nomination process," he told Schieffer.

The RNC Chairman said Mitt Romney had a good night last night, winning both Arizona and his home state of Michigan, but acknowledged that the process is far from over. "We've awarded about 175 delegates so far, over 400 will be awarded next week. So you know, I think we've got to wait and see. Obviously this is fluid, and as you know, the way the media is reporting this, a day feel likes a week and a week feels like a month," he said.

When Schieffer pressed him on a specific timeline for the nomination, he predicted this year's nominee will be known by April or May, and that the party won't have to wait until the convention to decide on their nominee, as some have suggested.

"You're going to see now, we're going to have 10 or 12 states at a time now in the process, and then winner-take-all starts in April. You know you're really only looking at, from when John McCain was the nominee, maybe an extra 30 days. Maybe, If that. So I think this is much ado about nothing. I think it's going to be very clear soon" he said.

As for the process itself, Priebus says that each of the Republican Presidential candidates are conservatives, including Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, and current delegate leader. He says the party will rally around the eventual nominee.

"I believe that our party and our candidates are going to come together, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure that we defeat this president."

One area that Priebus is focusing on is taking back control of the Senate and yesterday's surprise announcement of the retirement of three-term Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe seems to be a stumbling block to that effort as the state is heavily Democratic.

"But in the end we have so many opportunities in the Senate to win majority control, both in the battleground states and outside of the battleground states. I feel great about our chances in the Senate and whether we're talking about Nebraska, Virginia, New Mexico, Montana, Florida, Wisconsin, there's so many places to go. Missouri," he said.

When asked why she's retiring after being a significant moderate republican voice in the Senate, Priebus says she may have been frustrated being in the minority and it could be that it was time to move on.

"I mean I don't think we have to hold these folks in perpetuity to the confines of the halls of Congress forever just because that's what you're supposed to do. She wants to move on...I just think she sees what's in front of her and says 'look, I want to retire and move on with my life and enjoy myself,'" he said.

In her own statement, Snowe said she was ready for the electoral fight, but it was the partisan fight within the Congress that made another term so unappealing.

"Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail," she wrote.

Obviously partisanship is more rampant in an election year as the Republican candidates themselves aren't free from hyper-partisan rhetoric of their own. When asked about the tenor of the campaign so far and some of the attacks between the candidates and statements made about education and religious, Priebus says some statements could help and some could hurt, but it's not the Chairman of the party's job to judge.

"I'm not going to dive into refereeing on what these candidates choose to do and not do. Some of these tactics and some of these hits are to the benefit of these candidates and some of them can backfire. And I mean with every measure comes the possibility of it being a benefit and the possibility of it working in the wrong direction," he said.

But, Priebus says Republicans should follow what Ronald Reagan said and not attack each other. "I do think we should follow Reagan's 11th amendment when it comes to these primaries and candidates' advertising. And I do believe that my 80% friend is not my 20% enemy. But as Chairman of the party, you know I really can't get into a place of being a referee over what's good and what's bad in the primary process."

No matter what he says, this election is a referendum on President Obama and even though month to month economic numbers may look promising, most people think the country is on the wrong track.

"I believe that if you hold this president accountable for the promises that he made to America-- not my standards or the standards of the RNC but a Barack Obama standard, whether it be the debt, the deficit, unemployment, the environment, jobs, lobbyists, Wall Street -- whatever the topic is, he has not met the standards and promises that he set for this country. And heretofore I believe that he has to lose and he will lose," he told Schieffer.

  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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