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How Ronna McDaniel managed to lock in the votes to be RNC president

WASHINGTON — Ronna McDaniel’s behind-the-scenes campaign for a fourth term as Republican National Committee Chair began mid-morning on what was to become one hell of a day for the GOP: Nov. 8, Midterm Election Day. mandate.

An ally, Richard Porter, an RNC member from Illinois, met with her in Washington to make sure she wanted to run for another two-year term. Porter told McDaniel she’s done a terrific job and has a rare ability to walk a fine line between forces that remain loyal to former President Donald Trump and those that don’t, according to two people. familiar with their conversation.

McDaniel told Porter she would run again if the RNC members wanted her to stay. Later that day, he and a small group of McDaniel loyalists launched a member-to-member operation to gather support.

Over the next 10 days, as Republican leaders publicly blamed themselves for the disappointing midterm results – with McDaniel absorbing a heavy dose of criticism – Porter’s whip team secured commitments for an endorsement letter of 101 of the 168 members of the RNC.

“It’s really been kind of a member,” said North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley, who said he signed the letter without hesitation because McDaniel responded to the needs of state leaders. “For me, it wasn’t a close call. Every time I called her, the answer was yes. … I’m not surprised that people gathered behind her or around her as quickly as they did it.”

McDaniel’s campaign to lock in votes stands out as a model of speed and efficiency – shutting out most potential rivals – and for its ability to create any point of consensus within a party that is at war open about his future and Trump’s place in it. More importantly, at a time when some RNC members see Trump as a hanging anchor in the party, McDaniel has convinced many that she can maintain her independence from him in the primaries. of 2024.

“We need to do a little moon dance away from Donald Trump, or an Irish outing,” said an RNC member who signed the letter on condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting an employer. “He’s been a visionary. But he also brings a lot of baggage and negatives with him. And, you know, he doesn’t always have the best judgment. So I think it’s just for the good of the party. We We have to make sure the field is wide open.”

It’s a three-edged sword for McDaniel, who faces conflicting perceptions about his loyalty. There are those who want the RNC to remain staunchly neutral in the 2024 primaries. But then there are the many die-hard Trump stalwarts who want the RNC chairman to help – or at least fear that the promised “neutrality” by McDaniel is an understatement to put a thumb on the scales to hurt him. And Trump’s staunchest critics among RNC members say McDaniel, Trump’s choice for the job six years ago, is too close to him.

New Jersey RNC member Bill Palatucci said he opposed McDaniel’s re-election for this reason.

“A lot of people want someone who is clearly independent of Trump,” Palatucci said. “People have to be ready to confront Donald Trump and tell him to sit down. Everyone professes neutrality, but I want someone who is truly independent and willing to stand up to them.

Palatucci said he does not believe – despite endorsements numbering 107 following a second letter of support – that McDaniel had “stitched up” a secret ballot election to be held at the winter meeting of the gone next month.

If she wins and serves another full two-year term, McDaniel would become the longest-serving RNC chairwoman since Edwin Morgan, who served as the committee’s first leader from 1856 to 1864 and returned from 1872 to 1876. She declined a meeting request.

Emma Vaughn, a spokeswoman for her re-election campaign, said McDaniel, a former Michigan GOP chairwoman, was still speaking to RNC members about the party’s future.

“Like the RNC, Chairwoman McDaniel’s decision to run for re-election was member-driven,” Vaughn said in a statement to NBC News. “Members of 168 have rallied around the president because of her unprecedented investments in grassroots, electoral integrity and minority communities, and for standing up to Big Tech and the biased Commission on Presidential Debates.”

Vaughn added that McDaniel is “humbled by this support” and “looks forward to speaking with each member to discuss how the party can continue to leverage our investments and make the improvements needed to be competitive and win in 2024.” .

While McDaniel issued a challenge this week to California RNC member Harmeet Dhillon and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell said he would run, other hopefuls concluded the race was over before she does not begin. A senior Trump 2016 campaign official, Maryland RNC member David Bossie, threw his support behind McDaniel last week after exploring his own candidacy.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, RN.Y., who had publicly weighed a campaign for the presidency, fumed in a statement On Wednesday, McDaniel’s re-election was “prepped,” and he excoriated it for Republicans’ disappointing performances in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 elections.

During the midterm campaign, McDaniel expressed confidence in the GOP’s chances of winning the Senate and credited National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Rick Scott with victories that never materialized.

“I would say Nevada and Georgia are the two best pick-ups right now,” she said in Reno, Nevada, in October. She praised Scott for making early investments in those states and others that she said had kept Republicans competitive. “He will get all the credit for this decision when we win back the Senate.”

The Republicans lost Nevada the same day McDaniel told Porter she would seek another term, and they lost Georgia on Tuesday, when Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff.

McDaniel’s supporters and many other Republicans believe she’s come up against a headwind of Trump’s strength in every election cycle. that the party struggled in spite of his work, rather than because of him.

The midterm elections in 2018, when Democrats took control of the House, took place against the backdrop of its miserable approval ratings. Trump lost re-election in 2020 after a chaotic response to the Covid-19 pandemic. And while Republicans won a handful of House seats this year, Republicans lost ground in the Senate as several of its hand-picked foreign political nominees faded.

McDaniel launched an audit to dissect what went wrong halfway through. Meanwhile, Trump’s effect on GOP fortunes is the primary concern of some McDaniel supporters.

“Even the people who are die-hard supporters of the president and maybe still wear the MAGA red hats and have the T-shirts that say ‘Miss Me Yet? – when you tell them that the American public in general doesn’t send it back to the White House, they stop for two or three seconds and they say, ‘Yes, I know,’ ”said Jim Dicke, member of the RNC of the ‘Ohio. who gained support from other members for McDaniel and signed the letter supporting her for another term.

For McDaniel to lose, an opponent would have to win over the remaining undecided members of the RNC and sweep nearly two dozen declared McDaniel supporters.

Lori Klein Corbin, an RNC member from Arizona who has not committed to any candidate, said McDaniel has yet to ask for his vote.

“I think she realizes we’ve had a pretty tough election here,” Corbin said, pointing to the GOP’s losses in a series of races in the state last month. “I’m sure she’ll reach out to me at some point. And you know, I love Ronna a lot, but I have to do the will of my constituents in my state. If they don’t want us to keep doing same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then I have to agree with them.”

But the majority opinion among the 168 voters who matter most in the RNC election is that McDaniel is doing his job well.

“I get people who think there’s more to do, but the reason I’m supporting the president is because she came up with a plan that we all agreed to and she executed it all over the world. possible,” said JL Spray. , member of the Nebraska RNC. “It worked in many cases, didn’t work in some cases. She’s open-minded about a deep dive into the latest cycle. So I don’t know what more I could ask of someone.

Spray, who signed the letter supporting McDaniel, said his work with her as chairman of the party’s subcommittee on presidential primary debates convinced him his eyes were on in the right direction.

“We have to look forward, not back,” Spray said, “and Ronna is committed to looking forward, not back.”


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