Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel won her bid Friday to lead the GOP for two more years, prevailing in an election that highlighted fierce internal divisions that threaten to plague the party into the next presidential season.
McDaniel, whom Donald Trump tapped as RNC chair in 2016, won the the secret ballot 111 to 51. The high-profile election played out inside a luxury resort on the Southern California coast as the RNC’s 168 voting members – activists and elected officials from all 50 states – gathered for the committee’s annual winter meeting.
A relieved McDaniel invited her rivals to the stage immediately after the outcome was announced.
“With us united, and all of us working together, the Democrats are going to hear us in 2024,” she declared.
With the victory, McDaniel becomes the longest-serving RNC chair since the Civil War. Yet friends and foes alike agree that she will not be leading the RNC from a position of strength.
“The party is not united,” McDaniel’s chief rival, Trump attorney Harmeet Dhillon, told reporters in the hallway soon after standing alongside McDaniel on stage. “Nobody’s going to unite around the party the way it is, which is seemingly ignoring the grassroots.”
Indeed, while Trump privately backed McDaniel, powerful forces within his “Make America Great Again” movement lined up behind Dhillon.
Backed by MAGA leaders in conservative media, Dhillon 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 denied. Above all, the case against McDaniel centered on deep dissatisfaction with the direction of the party after continuous election losses since Trump chose her to lead the committee following his upset 2016 victory.
The former president ignored the feud as he congratulated McDaniel on her “big WIN” on his social media network.
“Now we have to STOP THE DEMOCRATS FROM CHEATING IN ELECTIONS!” Trump wrote in capital letters, repeating baseless allegations of election fraud that have filled his political messaging for the past two years.
But some of Trump’s acolytes were not so willing to move on.
Conservative activist Charlie Kirk cited the Republican base’s overwhelming desire for change and said those members who voted for McDaniel would be held “accountable.”
“The RNC has contempt for their voters,” said Kirk, who sat among several Dhillon allies in the back of the hotel ballroom where the vote was held. “They basically just gave them a middle finger.”
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