Trump 'increasingly sour' on RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, as GOP grapples with recent losses


Politics

Trump ‘increasingly sour’ on RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, as GOP grapples with recent losses

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Brian Schwartz@schwartzbCNBC

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Key Points
  • Former President Donald Trump has grown “increasingly sour” on Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and the overall leadership of the RNC.
  • After a string of GOP losses last week in Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, some Trump allies believe McDaniel’s leadership at the RNC is to blame for the party’s struggles.
  • “I’m nervous that we have someone that is either ineffective, or actively working against us. And it could sink us in 2024,” said one conservative commentator.

RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel reacts next to U.S. President Donald Trump at a fundraising event in New York, U.S., December 2, 2017.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump has grown “increasingly sour” on Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and the overall leadership of the RNC, according to a person close to the former president.

In the wake of a string of Republican losses last week in high profile contests in Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, Trump has been hearing from allies within his party who believe McDaniel’s leadership at the RNC is to blame for the party’s struggles, according to people familiar with the matter. They want Trump to pressure McDaniel to resign.

Several of the people lobbying the former president to turn on McDaniel also encouraged Trump not to publicly support Rep. Kevin McCarthy earlier this year, as the California Republican fought a losing battle to save his speakership.

“We didn’t want McCarthy, and then months later we lobbied the president to not save McCarthy,” a person familiar with that effort and the move to push McDaniel to resign said. “I do think if there’s enough pressure from us and Trump, McDaniel might just decide, ‘this is humiliating,’ and step down.”

The people quoted in this story were granted anonymity in order to speak freely about private conversations.

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In January, McDaniel was reelected to her fourth two-year term as RNC chair. But some of Trump’s allies are convinced that if the former president were to call on McDaniel to resign, the pressure from the party’s conservative base would be too strong for her to remain in the post.

Much of the public outcry against McDaniel from a growing chorus of Trump’s more conservative allies is criticism that the RNC didn’t help as much as it should have during the latest elections.

In Virginia, Republicans failed to win majorities in either the House of Delegates or the state Senate. The chairman of Virginia’s Republican Party, Rich Anderson, accused the RNC of having refused to help finance GOP campaigns for state legislative seats that could have tilted control of the chambers in favor of the GOP.

Anderson said he met with RNC officials earlier this year about help financing tough races, but that the committee turned him down, telling him essentially that it was too difficult to raise money in an off-year.

McDaniel disputes this. She says that it was Virginia’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, and his team who informed the RNC that its help wasn’t needed.

SIMI VALLEY, CA – MAY 1: Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on May 1, 2023 in Simi Valley, California. Youngkin was speaking as part of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute’s A Time for Choosing speaker series, a forum for leading consertive movement voices to address the future of the Republican Party. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David Mcnew | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Among those publicly lobbying Trump to help oust McDaniel is former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who hosts a streaming show, the War Room, that draws the attention of Trump’s inner circle.

During a recent interview with conservative commentator Rogan O’Handley, Bannon asked O’Handley what he would like to say to Trump about McDaniel.

“I’m nervous that we have someone that is either ineffective, or actively working against us. And it could sink us in 2024,” replied O’Handley. “The time is now. We have about a year until the 2024 election. Let’s get someone new. Let’s get someone fresh.”

Beyond the latest slate of Republican losses, the Republican National Committee also appears to be lagging behind the Democratic National Committee in overall fundraising.

The DNC, which acts as a main political committee for Democrats running for office up and down the ballot, raised over $13 million in September and started October with $20 million in cash on hand, according to the latest Federal Election Commission filings.

The RNC, on the other hand, raised over $6 million in that same month, and had around $9.2 million on hand heading into October, according to their filings.

The DNC, led by chair Jamie Harrison has one major advantage this cycle over McDaniel and the RNC: It will be raising money with the help of an incumbent president.

Ronna McDaniel, right, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, conduct a news conference to discuss Pennsylvania litigation and to give an overview of the post-Election Day landscape, at the RNC on Capitol Hill on Monday, November 9, 2020.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

It’s difficult to gauge how much daylight, if any, exists between McDaniel and Trump.

Another person close to Trump was unaware of any plans for the former president to call on McDaniel to resign.

They acknowledged that Trump had, in fact, soured on McDaniel two years ago, because he felt the RNC didn’t do enough to help him overturn the results of the 2020 election, which Trump lost to President Joe Biden.

But after McDaniel was reelected chair earlier this year, the person said, Trump committed to working with her while he ran for president in the GOP primary.

Representatives for Trump did not return requests for comment on this story. Bannon and his spokeswoman, likewise, did not return requests for comment.

In an October speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump said McDaniel had done a “fantastic job” running the RNC, and called her a “real, good friend.”

McDaniel said in a recent CNN interview that she would support Trump as the party’s nominee even if he were convicted of crimes in any of his four pending criminal cases. The RNC typically does not endorse one candidate over any other in Republican primaries, however, so McDaniel has not explicitly endorsed Trump for president.

Reached for comment on this story, the RNC said in a statement that it is focused on defeating Biden.

“Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and the entire Republican National Committee is laser focused on beating Biden next fall. The RNC has already staffed up in 15 states, filed over 70 election integrity lawsuits, launched Bank Your Vote, established a permanent Election Integrity department, and continues to hold Joe Biden’s feet to the fire,” an RNC spokesperson said.

“The RNC will continue to communicate with all campaigns and candidates as we look forward to putting our battle-tested infrastructure behind our Presidential nominee,” they added.




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