Conservative blogger Dan Riehl wrote Thursday that RNC chair candidate Reince Priebus would install a close ally of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s at the RNC if he won. But earlier this week, Priebus had told FrumForum that he was “not Haley’s choice” and had not been supported materially by the Barbours or their associates.
Riehl has written that Priebus would install Republican Governor’s Association executive director Nick Ayers as political director if he won the RNC chair race, presumably to aid any potential Haley Barbour bid for the presidency.
The RNC could work to provide help or inflict hurt on presidential campaigns – which is why, as Republican strategist Liz Mair has pointed out in a must-read CNN column on the essentials of the RNC race, presidential candidate neutrality is a crucial factor for a successful RNC candidate.
For his part, Priebus has denied being anything of a proxy for Haley Barbour. “I’m not Haley’s choice, I don’t think that Haley has any horse in the race, and he’s made that pretty clear on the record,” Priebus told FrumForum earlier this week. Governor Barbour told the Washington Times in December that “I am not for anybody for chairman, and I do not expect to support anybody for chairman.”
Asked if the Barbours or their associates had supported him materially, Priebus told FrumForum, “not at all.”
However, Mississippi National Committeeman Henry Barbour, Haley Barbour’s nephew, has publicly endorsed Priebus – which has led some to speculate that Priebus is Barbour’s choice.
But other things don’t seem to make sense with Riehl’s reporting. Several political strategists familiar with the RNC race pushed back on the notion of Nick Ayers as political director, suggesting that after having served as the executive director of the Republican Governor’s Association he would be more likely placed in a more senior position, like chief of staff or deputy director, if he goes to the RNC at all.
Riehl admits that he may be off on one of the details, but says that the notion of a deal between Priebus and Ayers is solid. “I did go back to my source… it could be deputy chair or chief of staff. But the point is that Priebus has agreed to bring Ayers in. I stand by that point,” Riehl told FrumForum.
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