Ronna McDaniel, who is poised to capture a historic fourth term as chair of the Republican National Committee, has not only absolved herself of any responsibility for the string of disappointing elections for the GOP on her watch but also has given former President Donald Trump a pass.
If anything, she said, the results of the 2022 midterm elections would have been worse for the party if she was not at the helm.
“The RNC is infrastructure. … We’re the stadium. The players play in our stadium. The infrastructure is necessary for victory. And that’s why I want to stay on. I think the RNC made this election better than it would have otherwise been,” she said in an interview with The Washington Times.
Mrs. McDaniel has weathered criticism for Republican losses at the polls in 2018 and 2020 and the failure to summon a red wave in this year’s midterm elections. Nevertheless, her support remains strong in GOP circles, and she appears to have lined up more than enough support to win reelection to chairwoman at the RNC‘s winter meeting next month in Dana Point, California.
She said her detractors aren’t seeing the big picture of what happened in the Nov. 8 elections.
“The fact that we picked up the House, I think cannot get overlooked. The fact that we kept every incumbent governor and senator is critical,” she said. “From an RNC perspective, turning out 3 million more voters on the popular vote — which would have been an electoral victory for us in a presidential year — is key.”
Mrs. McDaniel, who is closely allied with Mr. Trump, said she shared the concerns of those in the party who watched GOP candidates in crucial races, namely Senate races, lose in states where other GOP candidates won statewide races. That happened in Georgia and Nevada.
“You have to look at specifically why in certain states [where] one Republican would win statewide and another one would not. And that’s going to be the sweet spot of why did some Republicans not vote for our candidates,” she said.
Mrs. McDaniel stopped short of blaming Mr. Trump, as some in the party have, for championing the candidates who lost in the most pivotal races.
The most prominent Republican critic of Trump-endorsed candidates, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called it an issue of “candidate quality.”
Mrs. McDaniel removed Mr. Trump from that equation, saying that she doesn’t like “bashing candidates.”
“I do think it’s important that many of our Senate candidates were first-time candidates. They’ve never run for office ever in their lives. And that’s a disadvantage when you’re going up against a well-funded, well-oiled machine of a Democrat incumbent,” she said.
She blamed the newbies’ lack of an established fundraising organization and volunteer or grassroots infrastructure. She also blamed political consultants for relying too heavily on TV ads, which make consultants more money, rather than campaign basics such as building volunteer networks, get-out-the-vote operations and ballot harvesting.
Next cycle, she said, she‘ll work to hold “consultants more accountable.” She plans to create a best practices worksheet for first-time candidates that explains the questions they should be asking consultants, such as how much to pay for SMS texting and how much consultants should be allowed to pocket for a TV ad buy.
“We really need to help guide them so that they understand what best practices are with consultants. On the RNC front, we are always looking for good vendors and new vendors,” she said. “We like to spread it out. We will continue to do that and hold consultants accountable.”
Mrs. McDaniel remains the undisputed front-runner in the race for RNC chair. Of the party’s 168 voting members, 107 have pledged to support her. That’s 22 more votes than she needs to win.
Her chief opponent in the race is California Republican Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco-based attorney who entered the race for chair two weeks ago. She is known for taking on high-profile, politically charged cases for conservative clients, including the RNC.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell also has announced his candidacy for chairman.
Ms. Dhillon is among the critics of how Mrs. McDaniel has run the RNC since Mr. Trump first supported her for the job in December 2016, following his election. Ms. Dhillon has said the RNC has lacked a strategy to win since Mr. Trump lost his reelection bid.
“We really didn’t change our strategy at all in 2022, there should have been a historical opportunity to pick up seats, and we flubbed it. And so I’m not confident with the same leadership that we are going to get a better result,” she said on Fox News. “We don’t have a social media strategy. Digital is not performing well, consultants get hundreds of millions of dollars, and we don’t win elections.”
Mrs. McDaniel told The Times that a lot of “good things” have happened for the party during her six-year tenure. She pointed to the GOP voter registration gains in states such as Florida, North Carolina and Iowa where Republicans have racked up election wins.
The RNC also has aggressively forged inroads with minorities, making gains courting voters and candidates from those communities.
“The community centers that we’ve added in 38 different locations dealing with Black, Hispanic and Asian outreach, those pay dividends,” she said. “I know that if we don’t continue to do these things before 2024 and if we have a lapse or a gap in these programs, that will impact our effectiveness.”
One of her biggest strengths as RNC chair, and what she sees as a top argument for her keeping the job, is her fundraising prowess.
Federal Election Campaign records show that the RNC raised around $247 million during the last 18-month campaign cycle. The Democratic National Committee raised almost $223 million in the same period.
Mrs. McDaniel credits her strong relationship with GOP donors.
“The donors that I’ve spoken to, and I speak to them daily, are very pleased with the RNC,” she said. “They understand what the RNC does and they trust me.”