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RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel has discussed stepping down, AP sources say

During what was described as a cordial private meeting Monday in Florida, Trump and McDaniel discussed the possibility that she would step down.
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel has discussed stepping down, AP sources say
Posted at 7:44 PM, Feb 06, 2024

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel has discussed leaving her role with former President Donald Trump, with both agreeing to delay a decision until after South Carolina's Feb. 24 primary, according to two people familiar with the matter.

McDaniel has not formally decided to step down and leave her role as head of the GOP's political machine, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. But having long faced vocal opposition from a faction of the party, McDaniel is under renewed pressure after Trump publicly questioned whether she should stay in the job.

During what was described as a cordial private meeting Monday in Florida, Trump and McDaniel discussed the possibility that she would step down as one of a range of possibilities for changes within RNC leadership.

But they agreed not to make any final decisions until after South Carolina's primary, in which Trump is seeking to deliver a knockout blow to his last major challenger, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a native of the state and its former governor.

“Nothing has changed," RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper said in a statement. "This will be decided after South Carolina.”

A potential successor being discussed is Michael Whatley, who has been the North Carolina GOP chair since 2019, according to a third person familiar with the matter. Whatley also serves as general counsel to the RNC.

An adamant backer of Trump’s “stop the steal” efforts, Whatley ran last year for co-chair of the RNC with Trump’s backing. But he trailed badly and withdrew from the contest for the party’s second top-ranking post.

McDaniel has faced vocal opposition from leading far-right figures who largely blamed her for the GOP’s political struggles since Trump's 2016 election. That’s even as Trump himself publicly and privately backed McDaniel, who is Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s niece. Trump first tapped her to lead the committee in 2017.

McDaniel is in the midst of her fourth two-year term. Under the direction of the party's presidential nominee, whoever serves as chair will direct the sprawling nationwide infrastructure designed to elect a Republican president while serving as a chief party fundraiser.

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With decisive victories in the first two primary contests, Trump is fast approaching a third consecutive presidential nomination.

McDaniel has survived in Trump’s orbit for the last seven years in part by being willing to confront him directly, albeit always in private, about difficult issues. Trump and McDaniel met privately this week at the former president’s Florida estate amid rising tensions between the GOP establishment and leaders of Trump's “Make America Great Again” movement.

Trump suggested in an interview aired Sunday morning that McDaniel would leave her job soon.

“I think she did great when she ran Michigan for me. I think she did OK, initially, in the RNC. I would say right now, there’ll probably be some changes made,” Trump said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Just one year ago, McDaniel won a new term in a campaign that featured the same intra-party divisions. But the forces within Trump’s MAGA movement who failed to defeat her then only grew more emboldened as Trump’s grip on the 2024 Republican nomination grew tighter in recent months.

McDaniel’s most aggressive critics included former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and conservative activist Charlie Kirk, a radio host who leads the conservative group Turning Point USA.

Her critics seized on recent campaign finance disclosures that showed the RNC had just $8 million in the bank and $1 million in debt.

“With what the mission of the RNC is, I think she’s done a good job,” said Iowa RNC member Steve Scheffler, who noted national party fundraising typically falls behind individual campaign spending during competitive primaries. “But whatever Trump decides to do, I’ll be supportive of that.”

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