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Priebus: GOP W.H. Field Will Be Set by Summer’s End

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said he expects the GOP presidential field to be set in the next few months — and hinted some surprising candidates might pop up in the meantime.

“By the end of summer, we’re going to have a pretty solidified field,” Priebus said at a Tuesday morning briefing with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “Certainly, we don’t actually believe that we’re not going to have candidates running around Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina vying for votes.”

Priebus suggested there might be additional GOP names looking at jumping into the race, adding, “I don’t think we’re going to have any lack of candidates.”

The Wisconsin Republican’s comments came less than 24 hours after Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former RNC chairman, announced he would not run for president in 2012.

Priebus emphasized that the RNC was going ahead with its plan to sanction a small number of GOP debates starting this summer, in either July or August, but this would not preclude candidates from participating in other debates. He called the process “almost exactly” what the Democratic National Committee did in the 2008 cycle with their debates.

He also expressed confidence that Florida Republicans would back off their proposed primary date at the end of January, which is before any of the traditional first four states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — are scheduled to host their presidential nominating contests. Priebus said he’s in communication with Florida Republican Party officials, and he dismissed the idea that the RNC would move its 2012 convention out of Tampa as a punishment for the Florida GOP’s actions.

“I’m confident that we’re getting to a pretty good place in Florida, and obviously we’re working with them. They’re an important piece of the puzzle,” Priebus said.

Priebus also eschewed any claims from Republicans, including presidential candidates, who believe President Barack Obama may not be born in the United States. Although debated frequently during the 2008 campaign, the issue has experienced a resurgence in part because real estate mogul Donald Trump has brought it up frequently as part of his own discussions with media about a White House bid.

“Candidates can talk about it all they want, but my position is that the president was born in the United States,” Priebus said. “I don’t think it’s an issue that moves voters. It’s an issue that I, personally, don’t get too excited about.”

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