Trump sends mixed signals on the fate of RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel – The Washington Post
GOP front-runner Donald Trump sent mixed signals on Monday over whether Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel should resign, first suggesting in an interview that she knows it’s time to step aside while later calling her a “friend” and saying he would make a decision on her fate after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24.
The longtime leader of the Republican Party finds herself under fire as the party faces a cash crunch and people close to Trump make moves to cement control of the organization.
McDaniel — who was elected chairwoman in 2017 after running Trump’s successful 2016 campaign in Michigan — won a record fourth term in 2023 and has been expected to remain in the job until 2025. But McDaniel has faced a groundswell of criticism from the grass roots of the party.
“Is it time for Ronna McDaniel to step aside?” a Newsmax reporter asked Trump in a televised interview Monday.
“I think she knows that, I think she understands that,” Trump responded.
But hours after that interview was recorded — and following a meeting with McDaniel at his Mar-a-Lago Club in South Florida which lasted more than two hours — Trump sent a message on his Truth Social media site: “Ronna is now Head of the RNC, and I’ll be making a decision the day after the South Carolina Primary as to my recommendations for RNC Growth.”
The remarks came one day after Trump said changes were coming at the RNC in a Fox Business interview. In the past, he had assiduously defended McDaniel amid widespread criticism from parts of his movement.
Two people familiar with Monday’s meeting described it as friendly and said Trump made no ultimatums. One of the people said McDaniel was not committed to staying through Election Day but had not decided to leave yet, and that Trump has not committed to any decision.
Trump has begun positing about replacements, including Joe Gruters of Florida and Michael Whatley of North Carolina, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
McDaniel was overwhelmingly reelected in 2023 after some critics called for her to be deposed following the party’s disappointing performance in the 2022 midterm elections.
McDaniel is well liked among the party committee’s 168 members but has drawn extensive criticism from agitators on the right, who attacked her for insufficient fundraising and claimed that she was not loyal to Trump.
Trump’s campaign has increasingly grown frustrated with McDaniel’s leadership. They have worried over what they view as the RNC’s lackluster fundraising, as well as the more muscular role they hoped the committee could play in a general election matchup with President Biden.
Trump was also annoyed with McDaniel for playing a part in holding presidential debates — he wanted her to cancel them and declare him the nominee last fall. Trump also has repeatedly told advisers that McDaniel was not doing enough on “election integrity,” according to people who heard his comments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal discussions. The party struggled to raise money in 2023 and entered the presidential year with about half as much money as the Democratic Party, campaign filings show.
Her defenders say McDaniel has held the party together during seven difficult years and that Trump was to blame for much of the party’s struggles, not McDaniel.
“If Trump wants to understand why we lost in 2018, 2020 and 2022, all he has to do is look in the mirror. Ronna isn’t a magician,” said RNC member Henry Barbour, who has criticized Trump.
Trump — a consummate host in his pre-political life — often finds himself trying to win over whoever is directly in front of him, which can cause confusion as to what he truly intends.
The whiplash in his views of McDaniel, for instance, seems to stem in part from his desire to offer a forceful anti-McDaniel note to the conservative Newsmax base, while coming around to McDaniel’s appeal following a face-to-face meeting with her several hours later.
McDaniel ran for a fourth term against the advice of some leading Republicans and advisers.
McDaniel, the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) who abandoned using “Romney” as part of her name after the 2016 election, comes from a storied family in Republican politics and has been viewed as a bridge between Trump and the party’s more establishment, corporate class. She is well liked by some of the party’s top donors, including hotelier Steve Wynn.
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