FOX6's Mike Lowe recently had the opportunity to sit down, one-on-one with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
He's been on the job less than a year, but he inherited a Republican party in disarray, and he's tried to bring a steady hand, and a salesman's charm to the job.
FOX6's Mike Lowe traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with Priebus, to talk about party politics as we head into 2012.
It was William Shakespeare who once famously asked "what's in a name?" When you have a name like Reince Priebus, that seems to be an appropriate place to start an interview.
"It is a weird name. I mean, it's a bizarre name. The fact is my kids' names are Jack and Grace. My wife is Sally. My sister's Marie. My dad is Richard, and I got Reince. While it is a bizzare name, I think in some ways it's been helpful, too, in people remembering it, and once they get over the oddity of it, it usually is helpful, but it's nice coming home to Wisconsin, where people at least know how to pronounce it," Priebus said.
Priebus' full name is Reinhold Reince Priebus.
"It's actually a derivative, so it's like Jim and James. Belive it or not, Reinhold and Reince is like Jim and James. It gets weirder and weirder," Priebus said.
Priebus is the Republican National Committee Chairman. He is the face, voice and head of the grand old party, at least until Republicans pick a presidential nominee.
Priebus ran for the chairmanship against his old boss: Michael Steele.
It took an unprecedented seven ballots, before Priebus secured enough votes to claim victory.
"We need to make sure we're running a functional, operational party. Raising money, staying on message, watching your mouth, all of those things combined is what makes a good chairman," Priebus said.
Now, Priebus is putting his own stamp on the offic, giving new meaning to the party's traditional symbol: the pachyderm.
"We've got that all over the office, Packer helmets, cheeseheads, Packer pictures all over the place. I'm proud of Wisconsin and proud of being from the state," Priebus said.
Priebus grew up in Kenosha and went to Tremper High School. He says his political views were forged in a failing economy.
"Kenosha is a great place to grow up because I think you saw people working hard, and you saw what happens when you stop making it easier for businesses to thrive in America. You had almost 18,000 people working at American Motors and Chrysler, and it's all gone," Priebus said.
Priebus left Wisconsin for Washington about a month before Governor Scott Walker unveiled the plan to curtail collective bargaining for most public workers. The move led to massive protests and placed nationwide attention on the conflict between unions and conservative politicians.
"You have serious changes that are taking place in philosophy on what government means in Wisconsin and what government shouldn't mean, that we should not have a cradle to grave society in Wisconsin where government resolves every single thing that happensin that state. All of this sort of noise in Madison didn't amount to anything as far as the Democrats winning in Wisconsin. They didn't win in the Prosser race, they didn't win in their effort to turn the State Senate upside down," Priebus said.
Priebus says he's spoken to Republican donors from around the country that are willing to help underwrite a potential Scott Walker recall campaign. Because of a quirk in Wisconsin law, these donors would have an opportunity to spend unlimited amounts of money to support Walker, for a short period of time.
"They should be careful what they wish for. They're going to go in, if they're successful, they'll try to put Scott Walker on the ballot, they'll spend another $30 million, they'll have $30 million less for 2012, and they'll lose. Scott Walker will be even stronger than he is now," Priebus said.
Priebus has the track record to back up that statement: he presided over the historic Republican victory in Wisconsin during the November 2010 election. In that single election, the GOP flipped the governor's mansion, took both houses in the state legislature, and the Senate seat held by Russ Feingold for more than 20 years.
"It can work in any state. If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it anywhere," Priebus said.
President Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 percentage points in 2008. Obama has been to the state several times since his election, and Priebus says Wisconsin will be a key battleground during the 2012 election.
"I think Wisconsin is turning red right now. I think you're seeing it's solid. Wisconsin is Republican for the near future at least, but it's nothing we can take for granted, so I think it's going to be critical," Priebus said.
The message he is delivering from Maine to Montana as RNC Chairman: it's a 14-month sprint to defeat the president that he says is driving the economy into the ditch.
When Priebus is not delivering messages to the media, he spends 80 percent of his time on fundraising.
"The job of chairman is the job of raising campaign dollars," Priebus said.
Another tough job for Priebus: dealing with the growing sense of divide between the so-called Establishment Republicans and the Tea Party Movement.
"First of all, the Republican party is not in competition with the conservative movement. We're part of the conservative movement. Just legally and factually, our party has to be part of the equation because we're the only entity in America that can take the money we raise and legally coordinate it with a presidential campaign, the Senate campaigns and the congressional campaigns. There's not a single entity in America, not one, that can do the things we do," Priebus said.
At just 39 years of age, Priebus has reached the height of politics at a very young age, but he says the key to his success is just staying focused on the job.
"I've got a job to do, day-by-day, month-by-month, both fundraising, media, being functional, all the things we need to do here in order to take our little piece of the puzzle, which is the RNC, and make that the best possible piece when it's time to defeat this president. That's my job, trying to lead with a little less about myself, and a little more about everybody else, and that's the way I take every single day," Priebus said.