Nathan Deal to RNC: 'Rally around nominee'

Charleston, S.C. -- Gov. Nathan Deal made a quick trip east on Thursday to speak to the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee.

The same day Deal's staff back in Atlanta released his proposal for a record-setting $23.7 billion state budget, the governor and First Lady Sandra Deal where at the swanky Belmond Charleston Place Hotel.

Deal's lawyer and confidante, RNC member Randy Evans, emceed the luncheon, and called Deal "the best Republican governor in the entire United States," noting that there are 30 of them. There was polite applause.

In remarks to the crowd of more than 300 party leaders, activists and guests, Deal told the story of his own election in 2010, how he overcame eight other primary opponents and out-lasted Karen Handel in the GOP runoff.

All the while, he said, the Democrats had former Gov. Roy Barnes as their "anointed" candidate rested and well-funded for November.

"Does that sound sort of familiar?" Deal asked, in an apparent reference to Hillary Clinton's campaign this year.

Barnes, the night of the GOP runoff, began airing television ads. Deal said he was frustrated.

"I was broke, I didn’t have any money

," he said. "I had had a long primary, a long runoff and I was faced with ads to which I could not respond."

Ultimately, however, the Republican Governors Association and others came to his aid and helped him win the general election.

"If we want to win, and I can assure you there are no candidates running for president of the United States on the Republican label who don't want to win," he said. "I don't think there are any candidates running for president who don’t want our ultimate nominee to win.

"Please rally around whoever happens to be our nominee. We can't afford to sit on the sidelines."