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RNC’s McDaniel faces mounting GOP criticism

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel is facing growing criticism following another campaign cycle of losses for the GOP as it looks ahead to next year’s presidential election. 

Some Republicans have blamed the party’s recent defeats squarely on McDaniel. Last month, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said the RNC lacked a “cohesive message,” while presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy launched a petition to oust McDaniel. Meanwhile, reports of former President Trump’s discontent with McDaniel and the RNC have played out in the headlines. 

The dynamic underscores the divisions within the party as GOP candidates look to make up for a string of losses over the last three major election cycles. 

“What concerns donor and activists is that the RNC is not focused as much as it should be on turning out voters, chasing ballots in the general election,” said one GOP strategist. “That is where everyone thinks the RNC is coming up short.”

In January, McDaniel won her fourth term as chair after facing challenges from California attorney Harmeet Dhillon and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. McDaniel was predicted to secure reelection, but the episode laid bare the simmering tensions within the party. The state Republican parties in Nebraska and Washington endorsed Dhillon, while the Alabama and Texas Republican Parties said they would not support McDaniel. 

Following her reelection earlier this year, McDaniel acknowledged the concerns from her critics and opponents but called for unity going into the presidential election.

“We need all of us. We heard you, grassroots. We know. We heard Harmeet, we heard Mike Lindell. But with us united and all of us going together, the Democrats are going to hear us in 2024 when we take back the White House and the Senate,” McDaniel said.

Nearly 12 months later, those simmering tensions could be reaching a boiling point. McDaniel’s naysayers are still criticizing her, and newer voices like Ramaswamy have amplified the scrutiny surrounding her. The latest frustrations stem mainly from Republicans’ performances in November’s off-year elections, suffering losses in Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. 

“We’ve become a party of losers at the end of the day,” Ramaswamy said at the third Republican presidential debate. “We have to have accountability in our party. For that matter, Ronna, if you want to come on stage tonight and look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign, I will turn over, yield my time to you.” 

McDaniel hit back at the presidential hopeful, saying Ramaswamy “needs a headline” amid low poll numbers.

But Ramaswamy is not the only high-profile Republican criticizing McDaniel in the aftermath of the party’s losses last month. Huckabee, whose daughter is current Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), a high-profile ally of Trump, has also joined the chorus.

“The RNC became a very important part of winning elections,” Huckabee said. “I’m not seeing that right now. It seems like that we raise money, but we don’t raise that much. But we don’t have a message.”

And last month, the RNC was hit with negative headlines after a Washington Post report detailing donor concerns with the party’s fundraising. The report detailed recent finance reports showing the Democratic National Committee outraising the RNC.

Even before that report, there were voices suggesting Trump could turn on her. NBC News reported in mid-November that some of the former president’s allies were urging him to drop his support for her.

McDaniel’s defenders say that has to do with the incumbent president being a Democrat.

“We hear in the run-up to elections that elections are not won or lost in Washington, D.C., and then the day after the election everybody tries to take credit for those elections that are not won or lost in Washington, D.C.,” said Doug Heye, a veteran GOP strategist who served as RNC communications director in 2010.

“That Republicans have had some disappointing cycles over the past few years to me is no reflection on Ronna McDaniel or the RNC,” he added. “It’s a reflection on how the party has changed over the past few years under Donald Trump and the real growing pains by which I mean how painful it is for the party to try and grow as it’s gone through these changes.”

Steve Scheffler, an RNC committee member from Iowa and a McDaniel supporter, noted the top priorities of the organization are the party’s ground game in elections, organizing the national convention, as well as legal matters. 

“The best way to explain what the RNC does is they’re the highway upon which candidates can run, which means they build all of the technology, all of the voter data that are made available to candidates,” Scheffler said.

Under McDaniel, the RNC has touted its efforts to get more Republicans to vote early and by mail through its Bank Your Vote program. Additionally, the party has already sent staff to 15 swing states to get a head start on get-out-the-vote efforts and election monitoring. Additionally, it said it has filed more than 70 election integrity lawsuits and established a permanent Election Integrity Department.

But some Republicans say these actions have come too late.

“They should have done it 10 years ago,” the first Republican strategist said. “Because we’re basically half a decade behind the Democrats when it comes to chasing ballots.”

“It’s not necessarily her fault per se,” the strategist continued. “But it should have been done following the 2020 election because that was the blaring red light.” 

Most Republicans contend McDaniel is safe in her position for now.

“Once there’s a nominee, the RNC as an institution becomes a differently managed place,” Heye said. “But that’s standard. That’s not necessarily a reflection on her.”

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