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Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus of Kenosha last month tried to get Donald Trump to tone down his bombastic style as the party courts new election demographics.

Still, Priebus said he thinks that having Trump in the 17-person race for the Republican presidential nomination has been a "net positive" in that it has brought interest to the process.

"I also think it's an indicator that there's a lot of folks out there that are just sick and tired of Washington," Priebus said in an interview aired Sunday on "UpFront with Mike Gousha." "I think Donald Trump has tapped into that. You look at the first debate we had, I think it was five or six times more viewers, in the beginning of August, than any debate in the history of either party.

"The key for us, of course, now is to tap into something that allows us to cross into a cultural barrier, which has been hard for our party."

The Republican presidential candidate has lost the Latino vote by at least 18 points in the last nine general elections, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2012, Barack Obama got 71 percent to just 27 percent for Republican Mitt Romney.

Priebus said it's fair for the candidates to debate immigration, but he said the tone of the discussion matters.

And he said the Republicans need to show year-round interest in Hispanic, African-American and Asian communities.

"You can't sell a party by showing up three months ahead of time in Cleveland. You have to be there all the time," Priebus said. "So my fear has been with our party that we've become a midterm party that doesn't lose and a presidential party that doesn't win. And I believe that constant engagement in the community, getting to know people and talking about things like school choice and SBA loans for small businesses, and being a year-round party will get us to a place of competency when it comes to competing in black and Hispanic communities. And that's what we've done so differently today than where we were four years ago."

Priebus said he's fine with some jabs being thrown between the Republican candidates, but he doesn't want to have a primary "that starts living in the mud."

Still, Priebus said all the attention on Trump is a good thing for the GOP.

"I think we're showing America that we're the young, diverse party, offering a whole slew of options for people," he said. "And that's a good thing. If you look at what's happening on the Democrat side, look at this coronation. A coronation of what? A person that's being investigated by the FBI? A person who is now being beat by a socialist in New Hampshire? And actually a person that is opening the door to a guy like Joe Biden, who, by the way, is far more likable than Hillary Clinton. And I think likeability is the No. 1 thing on the ballot in the presidential election."

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Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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