By any fair measure, Ronna McDaniel has had a difficult tenure as chair of the Republican National Committee. As regular readers know, after Donald Trump chose her for the RNC role in 2017, McDaniel’s first election cycle was awful: The party lost 40 House seats and its majority in the chamber.
Republicans’ fortunes did not soon improve. In McDaniel’s second election cycle atop the RNC, Republicans lost the White House and the U.S. Senate. And in her third election cycle at the RNC — this year — McDaniel saw her party fall far short of expectations as Democrats defied the historical odds.
The incumbent RNC chair is nevertheless seeking a fourth consecutive term, and at first blush, she appears relatively well positioned to succeed. NBC News recently reported that McDaniel’s allies within the party “secured commitments for an endorsement letter from 101 of the RNC’s 168 members.” With that kind of backing, she seemed well positioned to prevail, even as intraparty rivals launched campaigns of their own.
But as a practical matter, there’s a difference between Republican National Committee members putting their names on an informal endorsement letter and following through with a vote when it counts. For McDaniel’s critics on the right, the race for the leadership post isn’t yet over, and as Politico reported, they believe there’s still a chance of defeating her.
Ronna McDaniel’s path to another two-year term leading the Republican National Committee faces a major obstacle: Some of the loudest voices in the conservative movement are calling for her to go. As she seeks a rare fourth term as RNC chair, McDaniel is facing fierce criticism from a horde of right-wing media figures who reach millions of GOP faithful. Now, McDaniel has to hold down her support on the committee for five weeks as a grassroots army rages against her.
Among the RNC chair’s critics is Tucker Carlson, a longtime ally of Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC committeewoman and former Trump election lawyer. At a far-right event over the weekend, the Fox News host said, in reference to McDaniel, “You’re flying on private planes with the money that, like, sweet, terrified Republican voters have sent to you from the middle of the country. And you’re losing elections. No. If you win elections, well, we can talk about it. If you’re losing, get out. We cannot reward incompetence.”
Earlier on Saturday, the Associated Press published a related report, noting that the right over the RNC post is turning “increasingly nasty,” and quoted longtime RNC member Ron Kaufman saying, “It’ll be ugly as hell for a while.”
CNN, meanwhile, quoted an undecided RNC member who added, “I didn’t think things could get worse after the [Georgia] runoff, but now we’ve got a bare-knuckle fight for RNC chair and it’s going to leave a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths right as we’re starting another critical cycle.”
The vote for RNC chair is expected in late January, and it’s too soon to say with confidence whether McDaniel will be able to hold onto her current support between now and then. What is clearer, however, is the familiarity of the circumstances: Republicans are fighting among themselves over who’ll lead the party in the House; Republicans have already fought among themselves over who’ll lead the party in the Senate; and Republicans are fighting among themselves over who should lead the party in the next presidential race.
The incumbent RNC chair, in other words, is not alone in trying to navigate an increasingly divided party.