Will Wisconsin Republicans want Reince Priebus for governor?

Politico reported Saturday that Reince Priebus, the Wisconsinite most responsible for President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, is considering a run for governor of the Dairy State.

REINCE PRIEBUS has been calling key GOP officials and operatives in Wisconsin the past week and signaling he’s seriously exploring a bid for governor of his home state in 2022, two sources with knowledge of the calls told Playbook. Priebus’ biggest selling point presumably would be the support of former President DONALD TRUMP — the two patched things up after Priebus was fired by the president back in 2017. Former Wisconsin GOP Lt. Gov. REBECCA KLEEFISCH is widely expected to run and is seen as a potential Republican front-runner, but Priebus would be formidable in a primary with Trump’s support. Incumbent Democratic Gov. TONY EVERS is likely to seek a second term.

In addition to serving as White House chief of staff, Priebus was Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) when Trump won the Republican nomination and then the November election. The RNC under Priebus substituted for Trump’s campaign after the party convention in 2016.

Priebus was also chairman of the RNC during the 2012 election cycle when then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his running mate Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) lost to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. After that loss, Priebus and the RNC conducted an “autopsy” that resulted in a report calling for a more inclusive Republican Party. The “autopsy” report was largely ignored in the 2016 and 2020 campaigns.

Prior to taking over the national Republican Party, Priebus became chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin in 2007. As chairman, Priebus led the party back after a disastrous 2008 campaign to victory in 2010. The success of Republicans in Wisconsin was the result of a successful merger of the party with the Tea Party movement. Republicans took back both chambers of the legislature, Scott Walker was elected governor and Ron Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate.

If Priebus were to run for governor, he would bring considerable national connections that would enable him to raise large sums of campaign funds. He would also have name recognition among the party faithful and connections within Wisconsin to form a strong campaign organization.

However, Priebus could also be caught between two worlds. On the one hand, Trump Republicans consider Priebus to be an “establishment Republican” who was responsible for the early failures of the Trump Administration. Instead of returning home, Priebus is now part of the “swamp” Trump Republicans claim to abhor.

On the other hand, other Republicans may not be forgiving of Priebus’ role at the 2016 Republican National Convention protecting Trump’s nomination.

Priebus’ time in Washington also has given Wisconsin Republicans more time to form attachments to other possible candidates such as former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, former Congressman Sean Duffy, former Wisconsin Commerce Secretary Bill McCoshen, and businessman Kevin Nicholson.

Possible Republican candidates for statewide office in Wisconsin are largely waiting on U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) to announce if he will seek re-election.

RightWisconsin has a special version of “Reince, Reince Baby” (to the tune of “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice) on our Facebook page.

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