On Jan. 27, we’ll find out whether someone surnamed Mc will keep the Republicans’ three-peat. That’s when Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, faced her own leadership challenge.
Most signs point to her being re-elected; McDaniel released a list of support in November that included 101 of the 168 RNC members — far more than the 85 she needs to be re-elected. (Each state and territory gets three votes: one for the party chair, one for the committee member and women committee member.) Her top challenger is Donald Trump ally Hammet Dillon, And MyPillow founder Mike Lindell is at least nominally running for the job.
But the opposition has nonetheless offered a fierce challenge, even a very regional one. And the opposition at least appears to be stronger than against McConnell and McCarthy, as the party grows weary of its recent poor election results and there are calls for a leadership change.
Political parties in about half a dozen states have voted no confidence in McDaniel’s leadership in recent weeks or issued other calls — in some cases unanimously — for a change at the helm — and more could come in the coming days. Many people do this. When asked to choose between McDaniel and Dhillon, Trump himself has made notable bets, including as recently as Monday. That’s in stark contrast to his public support for McCarthy, who also sees Trump’s allies as potential challengers.
The parties who rebuked McDaniel came entirely from the Sun Belt and the South. They include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. Tennessee Republican National Committeewoman Beth Campbell also said her state voted “overwhelmingly” for a leadership change last month, although like Louisiana, it did not appear to have publicly announced it at the time.
Florida is also set to hold such a no-confidence vote on Friday, while Nebraska GOP Chairman Eric Underwood promised a leadership vote Saturday after withdrawing his support for McDaniel last month .
There is little evidence that others have followed in his footsteps, even amid strenuous opposition from some parties.Hawaii RNC Congresswoman Laura Nakanelua was on McDaniel’s support list on Nov. 18 but said on Dec. 18 She will support Dhillon now. (Underwood’s name wasn’t on McDaniel’s original list of backers.)
McDaniel’s support list in November included only a handful of members from those states — exacerbating regional divisions within the party. But among them, there is no evidence that these members changed course in response to what their state party did (which is not binding on them).
Texas RNC Congresswoman Toni Anne Dashiell stood by her support for McDaniel even after the state voted unanimously against him. Arkansas State Commissioner Vicki Drummond, who joins McDaniel as party secretary in the RNC leadership, saw no change in her vote. Two members from Florida, Chairman Joe Grutes and Commissioner Catherine King, both told The Washington Post that they remained on McDaniel’s corner.
“My opinion on the game hasn’t changed,” King said.
Grootes cast doubt on whether the Florida vote would succeed, saying he doubted a quorum would be reached and describing his supporters as a “speaking minority.” Leaders in the effort include former Congressman Madison Cawthorne (R-N.C.), who lost the Republican primary in his first re-election bid last year, and former state Representative Anthony Sabatini, who Last year also lost the Republican primary for Congress.
But Grootes did point out how loud a minority can be. Shortly before 10am on Tuesday, he said he had “been bombarded with about 250 calls, texts and emails today”.
McDaniel became chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2017 after Trump was elected president. Since then, she has presided over three disappointing elections for her party, most notably in 2022, when the GOP has failed to make the sort of gains it typically makes when the other party takes the White House.
Although the Republicans won the House, their majority was narrower than expected and the opposition lost the governorship and the Senate for the first time since 1934. This comes after the GOP lost the House of Representatives and was re-elected as president in 2018 and the Senate in 2020, both under McDaniel’s watch.
The fact that McCarthy and McConnell got through with these results is perhaps understandable given the lack of real viable alternatives to their leadership and the fact that they do not lead the party’s campaign. But McDaniel’s job is to steer the party to electoral victory, which makes the absence of a bigger dissent all the more remarkable.
Of course, McDaniel’s math wasn’t as intimidating as McCarthy’s. He could lose only a handful of Republican votes and still win the majority needed for House speaker; she only needs a majority of the 168-member RNC. She could lose 16 endorsements in November and still win.
McDaniel also avoided a challenge from a more established challenger, such as former Congressman Lizeldin (RN.Y.). That leaves her party deciding between her and a shift to the Trump wing at a time when that doesn’t seem like a recipe for righting its electoral boat.
Despite the disappointing election results, she has proven to be a very adept fundraiser, and Republican turnout in 2022 is actually quite high. (Just too many Republicans not voting for flawed Republican candidates in key races.)
But the cumulative effect is that the Republican Party will likely respond to its recent electoral defeat with little change at the top of the party — at least until the 2024 Republican presidential primary.