RNC Chair: Not planning for brokered convention

(CBS News) The head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, denied a report that the GOP is making contingency plans for a brokered convention, and downplayed the notion that the long, protracted nominating process will leave the party without a nominee before it meets in Tampa.

"We're not making plans for a brokered convention," Priebus told host Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation."

Priebus was responding to a question about a report in today's New York Times that says strategists are working behind the scenes to prepare for a nomination process that fails to result in a candidate with the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

"We're only at half time," Priebus told Schieffer, noting that just over half the states have voted. "I think that this process is going to play itself out."

Priebus added: "The up side is we have rules to handle any possibility" of a contested convention. "Obviously we're going to follow those rules. But right now what we're talking about is who is going to be our nominee."

Priebus also said the long fight is going to benefit the eventual Republican nominee. The RNC Chair said Senator John McCain's quick nomination in 2008 hurt him in the general election against a battle-tested candidate, Barack Obama, who won after a long nomination fight against Hillary Clinton.

"Guess what: A tough primary, a little bit of drama actually helped Barack Obama," Priebus said. "We put America to sleep with our primary four years ago. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton nearly gouged each other's eyes out.

"What happened? He won."

Priebus predicted a nominee would be decided by the time the last primary results in June.

"When we get to June, July, August, September, we're going to have an eternity to debate who is going to be the next president."

And he said voters will have a distinct choice between President Obama and whomever the Republican nominee is.

"It will be a referendum on whether people are better off today than they were three or four years ago, which they're not," Priebus said. "And it will be a referendum on whether Barack Obama is a man of his word and fulfills the promises that he makes to the American people, which he has not."

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.