For a remarkable span of seven eventful years, Ronna McDaniel achieved something that very few people in Donald Trump’s circle were able to accomplish: she managed to stay in her position.
Even RNC committee chairs are not immune to the laws of gravity in modern Republican politics. Donald Trump has a tendency to sour on just about everyone.
The chair of the Republican National Committee is anticipated to resign this spring, marking the conclusion of a remarkable four-term tenure. This historic departure serves as a striking representation of the Republican Party’s transformation.
McDaniel proved to be a loyal ally to Trump, making significant changes and adaptations within the party. While dropping her maiden name, Romney, at Trump’s request has received much attention, it was her decision to align the party with Trump’s political agenda that had a more profound impact. Despite the risks involved, she remained steadfast in her support for Trump, even when he contemplated forming a new party, propagated baseless conspiracy theories, and challenged the legitimacy of the 2020 election results.
After facing pressure from Trump, McDaniel ultimately made the decision to step aside. Following a lengthy meeting at Mar-a-Lago, Trump referred to McDaniel as a “friend” but announced that he would be making a decision regarding “RNC growth” the day after the South Carolina Primary.
According to an anonymous RNC member, President Trump is known for his loyalty to himself, to the point where he would even turn on his own children if necessary. The member also emphasized that the challenges faced by the Republican Party cannot be attributed to the fault of Melania Trump.
McDaniel now finds herself pondering not only the worthiness of her efforts, but also whether there were any alternative paths she could have taken.
One RNC member, speaking anonymously, expressed their admiration for McDaniel’s loyalty, both to former President Trump and to her staff. They described her as a good person and someone they personally liked.
However, according to the member, “I believe she did not succeed as a chair.”
McDaniel’s tenure at the RNC was widely regarded as a disappointment in terms of electoral success. While the Republican Party did manage to gain two Senate seats, they also lost a staggering 40 seats in the House during the 2018 midterms. Furthermore, the party faced major setbacks in 2020, losing both chambers of Congress and the presidency. In addition to these electoral losses, McDaniel faced criticism for her inability to revamp the RNC staff and for the decline in fundraising.
McDaniel’s supporters, and even some skeptics, argue that she encountered a barrage of conflicting criticism, which presented a challenging situation for her. Throughout her time in office, she faced backlash for both not doing enough and doing too much to support Trump. They contend that Trump should bear the majority of the blame for the party’s failures, a burden that often fell on McDaniel’s shoulders.
The job of RNC chair became increasingly complicated due to the former president’s actions in office, his handling of Covid, and his legal troubles. It was the former president’s actions that caused voters to turn on the GOP, rather than the lack of a more advanced digital operation by the national committee.
Oscar Brock, the national committeeman from Tennessee who opposed her reelection to a fourth term last year, expressed uncertainty when asked about potential improvements Ronna could have made for the party. According to him, Ronna served as a loyal supporter of Donald Trump, who was the true leader of the party, rather than being the leader herself.
According to Republicans, the recent fundraising challenges faced by the RNC can be partially attributed to Trump. They believe that Trump’s ability to attract small-dollar donors to his own campaigns and his polarizing image has deterred some larger, institutional contributors from supporting the party.
According to former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the Democratic candidates are not only failing to receive small-dollar donations, but they are also facing a lack of support from larger donors. If these bigger donors do not approve of Trump, they are either choosing to abstain from contributing or are directly donating to the president.
According to McDaniel, being in that situation is incredibly challenging.
McDaniel, however, did not simply observe from the sidelines during the Trump era. She actively played a significant role as a top deputy, reallocating committee resources worth millions of dollars to address his key objectives. This included supporting initiatives aimed at ensuring election integrity and providing financial assistance for his legal expenses.
According to an anonymous RNC member, the performance of the chairwoman speaks for itself. They pointed out that the Republican Party lost the House, the Senate, and the White House during her tenure, which is unprecedented in the history of the RNC.
Despite suffering significant losses, McDaniel managed to maintain her popularity among a large number of RNC members and top donors. She was able to secure a resounding victory in her re-election bid, even in the face of a formidable opponent.
She is praised for her accomplishments by her supporters. They highlight her achievements such as establishing community centers nationwide to enhance the RNC’s engagement with minority groups, establishing the “Election Integrity” department, cutting ties with the Committee on Presidential Debates, significantly increasing the RNC’s email subscriber count from 3 million to 50 million, and playing a role in launching WinRed, a fundraising platform that provides an alternative to the Democrats’ small-dollar online fundraising portal. Additionally, she provided valuable advice to Republican candidates in 2022, urging them to refine their messaging on abortion in order to appeal to suburban women.
Unfortunately, the party was unable to find the desired messaging despite their efforts. Moreover, the work she invested in other projects seems to be falling apart as recent reports indicate that the community centers she had worked on are now shutting down.
On Wednesday, McDaniel sent a message to committee members, expressing her unwavering dedication to our mission and dismissing any rumors suggesting otherwise.
The spokesperson for the RNC declined to provide further comment on McDaniel’s position, stating that “Nothing has changed. This will be decided after the South Carolina primary.”
Despite having a close relationship with Trump, McDaniel faced backlash from the former president and his team due to the RNC’s resource allocation and their decision to hold primary debates. McDaniel had promised to remain neutral during the race and stayed true to her pledge. However, when Nikki Haley lost to Trump in New Hampshire, McDaniel shifted towards Trump’s preferred direction, emphasizing the need to unite around him as the likely nominee. Unfortunately, this was not enough to appease the frustration expressed by Trump and his team.
Whispers of a potential resignation announcement by McDaniel circulated among the committee during their gathering in Las Vegas last week. In fact, during a members-only meeting on Wednesday, some members expressed their concerns about her management of the committee’s finances, as reported by two individuals familiar with the discussions. However, despite these grievances, the RNC’s 168 members continued with their business at the Horseshoe Casino, and the speculation surrounding McDaniel’s departure diminished.
The news of her impending departure came as a surprise to many members, sparking a wave of phone calls. As it became evident that the news was indeed true, some openly questioned whether McDaniel should have taken a cue from those who frequent Vegas or work for Trump and recognized when it was time to walk away.
According to Brock, one thing that could have been done differently is for her not to run for reelection a year ago. He believes that when there is consistent underperformance over three cycles, someone needs to take responsibility and face the consequences.