- The Washington Times
Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Ronna McDaniel’s future as head of the Republican National Committee has been called into question after the party’s disappointing midterm election showing, though it is not certain whether a credible alternative will emerge.

Republicans were left asking what went wrong last week when their bullish predictions fell short. Democrats successfully defended their control of the Senate and limited their defeats even if they lost control of the House.

It marked another electoral setback for Republicans on Ms. McDaniel’s watch, and it fed into lingering concerns that her close ties to former President Donald Trump — including the RNC’s decision to cover some of his legal bills — have hurt more than helped the party.

Mick Mulvaney, who served as Mr. Trump’s White House chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget, said publicly what disgruntled RNC members acknowledged privately: The Republican Party should consider a fresh start. 

“I have no complaints about [Ms. McDaniel] personally, but we have a track record of losing with her in charge,” Mr. Mulvaney said on CNN. “When Trump said we would win so much we would get tired of winning, this was not what we expected.

“I do think it is time for us to start considering other people for the leadership of the party,” he said. “In fact, I don’t know what the argument is to leave the leadership the same as it is.”

RNC members, however, say Ms. McDaniel is well-positioned to retain her post at the party’s winter meeting in January.

She is not vulnerable at all,” said Shaun Steel, an RNC member from California.

Another RNC member who expressed concerns about Ms. McDaniel pegged her chances of winning reelection at 90%.

Ms. McDaniel has never faced a contested election, but that could change. Rep. Lee Zeldin has been urged to consider running after he put up a strong showing against New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. Others have suggested South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem as a rival for Ms. Daniels.

Some conservative commentators have called for Ms. McDaniel to be replaced.

“For the sake of actually winning in 2024, Ronna has to go,” Ned Ryun, founder of American Majority, a conservative group, said in a post on Twitter. “She’s inept and will never, ever be able to lead the party to victory.”

Ms. McDaniel announced this week on a lengthy phone call with members that she plans to seek reelection and vowed to commission an analysis of what went wrong in the midterms. The post-election analysis will be led by Henry Barbour of Mississippi and Harmeet Dhillon of California.

Ms. McDaniel has said the RNC will stop paying Mr. Trump’s legal bills if he runs for president.

Tommy Hicks, RNC co-chair, announced that he would not seek reelection, setting off a scramble to replace him.

Glenn McCall, an RNC member from South Carolina, said he and others on the committee on behalf of Ms. McDaniel are courting fellow members who expressed a desire before the midterms to have her stay.

Mr. McCall said the criticism of Ms. McDaniel is misplaced. He said Ms. McDaniel showed her value as a fundraising juggernaut and by building the party’s data-driven field program and on-the-ground political infrastructure.  

“It is really up to the candidate and their message and, as you know in this business, candidates and their message matters,” Mr. McCall said. “We had some great candidates, but we also had some first-time candidates who were just not ready for the challenge.

“Overall, she has done an outstanding job,” he said. “I am sure there will be others who will throw their hat in the ring, but I don’t see a formidable challenger.”

Mr. Trump tapped Ms. McDaniel for the job after defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Ms. McDaniel is a niece of Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and a former head of the Michigan Republican Party.

Republicans lost control of the House in the 2018 elections and then lost control of the White House and the Senate in 2020.

Mr. Trump endorsed Ms. McDaniel’s successful bid for a second term, helping her overcome some blowback.

The dust has yet to settle from the midterms, where Trump-endorsed candidates who embraced his claims of a stolen election and his unconventional approach to politics fell short in key races.

The finger-pointing inside the Republican Party is well underway, and many blame Mr. Trump for the poor showing and the party for being too closely aligned with him.

Mr. Trump’s anticipated 2024 announcement has added another layer of uncertainty to the Republican Party’s future. Some wondered whether Ms. McDaniel should keep steering the ship while Mr. Trump runs for the presidential nomination. 

“She is not exactly a neutral arbiter,” a Republican consultant said. “She has carried the former president’s water.”

Mr. Steel defended Ms. McDaniel from that line of criticism.

She is an honest broker,” he said. “She will be absolutely neutral during the presidential primary. She is not going to pick either side. That is very important to members. We don’t want to see the thumb going on the scale for anybody or against anybody.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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