The Republican National Committee will elect a new chair today, and the incumbent Ronna Romney McDaniel is running for a fourth term.
The national GOP has remained mostly silent on this race.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed the establishment favorite McDaniel in a previous cycle, immediately after his victory in 2016’s presidential race. This time, Trump has withheld any endorsement.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has also avoided commenting on the race. “I think they’ll be able to figure that out themselves,” McConnell said, according to a Monday report from Politico.
However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential candidate for president, refused to be silent. DeSantis slammed McDaniel in a recent interview… and he backed an alternative.
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In an interview with Florida’s voice, DeSantis cited three “substandard election cycles in a row” under McDaniel’s leadership.
DeSantis spoke favorably about Trump attorney Harmeet Dhillon.
Dhillon has waged an aggressive challenge against McDaniel that featured allegations of chronic misspending, mismanagement and even religious bigotry against Dhillon’s Sikh faith — all claims that McDaniel has denied. Above all, the case against McDaniel, a niece of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, has been focused on conservative frustration with repeated election losses on her watch.
“I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC out of D.C.,” DeSantis said. “We need some fresh thinking.”
DeSantis also spoke about the RNC’s need for periodic changes in leadership, regardless of his opinion about the current incumbent. McDaniel, if successful, would become the longest-serving RNC chair since the days of Abraham Lincoln.
“I think we need a change,” DeSantis continued. “I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC.”
Trump has been backing McDaniel in private, despite his public silence. He dispatched his lieutenants to California in the days leading up to the vote to help boost McDaniel. The former president’s senior adviser Susie Wiles was among those Trump allies hosting private conversations with RNC members on Thursday.
The former president avoided making a public endorsement only at McDaniel’s request, according to those with direct knowledge of the situation. McDaniel’s team was confident she would win without his public backing, allowing her to maintain a sense of neutrality heading into the 2024 presidential primary season.
Former Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, a former RNC chair, was among those who gathered at the Waldorf Astoria this week to lobby for McDaniel.
“It appears as though Ronna’s in very good shape to get reelected,” Priebus said.
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The next RNC chair will lead the committee through the 2024 presidential election.
The RNC controls much of the presidential nominating process — including the debates and voting calendar — while directing GOP fundraising efforts and the sprawling nationwide infrastructure designed to elect the next Republican president.
According to its rules, the RNC must remain neutral in the presidential primary. Trump is the only announced GOP candidate so far, but other high-profile contenders are expected in the coming months.
Dhillon, whose law firm earned more than $400,000 representing Trump and his political organizations in the 2022 midterms, promised to leave her law practice if elected. The California attorney also vowed to remain independent in the 2024 Republican primary should she win.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell will appear on the ballot for RNC chair, but he’s running a longshot campaign.
The winner must secure a simple majority among the RNC’s 168 voting members. The committee will vote by secret ballot in Dana Point, California.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.