Race For RNC Chair Intentionally ignoring the 239 pound orange elephant in the room

DANA POINT, Calif. ― As Republicans decide whether to give party chair Ronna McDaniel another term after three bad elections in a row, they continue to ignore the 239-plus-pound, orange-painted, coup-attempted elephant in the room.

Since the start of McDaniel’s tenure on the Republican National Committee in 2017, the Democrats recaptured the House in 2018, won the presidency and the Senate in 2020 and enjoyed the best midterm for a party that controls the White House in decades. narrowly losing the House. last November and actually taking a seat in the Senate.

In each of those elections, voters said one of their main motivating factors was a deep dislike for former President Donald Trump, a dislike that manifested itself in 2022 defeats by Trump-backed Republicans in key state races across the country.

“When the Republicans see the senator. [Chuck] Schumer chairing the US Senate, they have no one to blame except Don Trump,” said Bill Palatucci of New Jersey, one of the few outspoken Trump critics on the 168-member committee, referring to the continued role of the New York Democrat as Majority Leader.

Despite this, in pitches and arguments both for and against McDaniel, Trump’s name almost never appears.

Her main rival, California RNC member Harmeet Dhillon, has spent weeks explaining to Republicans and conservatives across the country that she is “tired of losing.” In her account, McDaniel has actually had five bad elections, counting the Georgia runoffs in 2020 and 2022 as separate events.

Of course, it wasn’t McDaniel who alienated key blocs of swing voters in the Republican-leaning suburbs with a chaotic and underhanded leadership style, an attempted extortion of Ukraine and, on January 6, 2021, an attempted coup. to stay in power. It was not McDaniel who traveled to Georgia before the 2020 runoff and told voters the election was rigged, depressing turnout and leading to two Democratic victories. And it wasn’t McDaniel who recruited candidates in 2022 based solely on his willingness to lie that the 2020 election had been stolen.

A close ally of Dhillon’s presidential race, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, however, that if RNC members decide that Trump is in fact the main problem, then McDaniel, who was handpicked by Trump to the post six years ago, is not the solution.

Dhillon refused to participate in Trump’s various unfortunate demands to overturn his 2020 election loss, the ally said, while McDaniel allowed Trump’s legal team of Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani to hold an extravagant press conference. at RNC headquarters in which they claimed that a plot involving dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez had robbed Trump of victory.

“Maybe the answer is that we shouldn’t have a leader who spends all his time supporting Donald Trump,” the ally said.

For his part, McDaniel, in his own defense, does not blame Trump for the losses that clearly, according to exit polls, can be attributed to him.

Instead, he argues that the RNC’s role is to register voters and raise money, and that the committee does not choose candidates or offer campaign strategy. The closest he gets to suggesting that candidates who won the primaries based on their willingness to repeat Trump’s electoral lies ended up being poor general election nominees is to point out that in all but one of the battleground states, at least one Republican managed to win. across the state, showing that the party had indeed laid the groundwork for success.

While Trump allies in Arizona and Georgia argue that the RNC didn’t do enough for gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake or Senate candidate Herschel Walker, McDaniel counters that the top vote-getter in Arizona was Kimberly Yee, the Republican for treasurer, and that eight Republicans won state elections in Georgia.

In fact, Yee, by winning a second term, received 120,000 more votes than Lake. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp got 203,000 more votes than Walker. Trump completely ignored Yee, while Kemp was the candidate Trump worked the hardest to defeat in the primary.

Trump’s evasion has carried over to the related question of how to catch up with the Democrats on early and absentee voting. Both McDaniel and Dhillon stress the importance of improving Republican mail-in ballot “chasing” programs. They fail to point out, however, that his party pioneered this tactic, but then squandered that advantage when Trump declared in early 2020 that mail-in voting was somehow fraudulent.

When challenged by Fox Business host Stuart Varney last month to explain why this was not all Trump’s fault, McDaniel said it was too soon and that she had commissioned an “after-action” report to understand what happened. in the partial exams. “I’m not in the blame game right now. We have to do an analysis. I think it’s too fast,” she said.

Rather than blame Trump, McDaniel has criticized the aggressive campaign mounted by Dhillon, which has included urging conservative audiences across the country to harass their local RNC members into voting for change.

Dhillon has attacked McDaniel for spending too much on party consultants and vendors, despite the fact that Dhillon herself has received $1.3 million in RNC payments since appearing at a Trump White House social media event in 2019. hinted that McDaniel was winning compromises for votes from the 168-member group by offering election committee assignments and other benefits.

In a recent podcast run by allies of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, McDaniel said Dhillon was running a “scorched earth” campaign against him. “I’m watching a woman I thought was my friend do that to me,” he said.

Some RNC members believe that Dhillon’s style, and in particular his way of mobilizing grassroots activists to put pressure on them, may end up working against him.

“Some of the tactics have been arrogant and have probably backfired,” said a senior RNC member, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The member said that, in the end, Republicans ready to walk away from Trump are looking in the wrong place if they focus on Friday’s election at the committee’s winter meeting, which will also include a pillow-monger-turned-turned-nominee. an electoral conspiracy theorist. Mike Lindell.

“Who is going to be our nominee for 2024 is really what matters the most,” the member said. “That is the real battle for the future of the party. Not the RNC race chair.”

That offers little comfort to Republicans eager for the party to overtake Trump.

Dan Eberhart, the head of an oil services company and a major Republican donor who has been sounding the alarm on Trump for several years, said the recent election is further evidence that the party must move quickly.

“The RNC should focus on winning elections instead of trying to stay on Trump’s good side. Winning elections requires candidates who can succeed with general election voters and not just a partisan primary,” he said. “Trump’s base may want to remove Republicans he deems insufficiently loyal, but that makes him a much smaller and weaker party. We need to attract more voters if we want to be able to govern, not less.”

Amanda Carpenter, a former top aide to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, said it’s unfortunately too much to hope that the RNC will take the lead in disengaging from Trump.

“The Republicans want to win again, without a doubt. They are realizing that they cannot do that with Trump. But I don’t expect the grassroots to say that out loud unless there’s someone else to follow,” he said. “The RNC is subservient to the last or next candidate of the Republican Party. He’s in limbo until then.”


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