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Updated Feb 4, 2024, 9:45pm EST
politics

Donald Trump fans MAGA flames against Ronna McDaniel

REUTERS/Cheney Orr
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The News

Donald Trump appeared to distance himself from Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel on Sunday amid growing discontent from some of his allies, suggesting that her time leading up the organization might be coming to an end soon.

“I think she did great when she ran Michigan for me,” Trump said on Sunday during an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” with Maria Bartiromo. “I think she did okay, initially, in the RNC. I would say right now there’ll probably be some changes made.”

The former president went on to dissociate himself from the RNC when pressed about its struggling fundraising numbers. He noted that he has “a lot of money” and stressed that he is “separate” from the organization. “They want changes,” Trump added.

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Shelby and David's View

While not a direct disavowal of McDaniel, the interview made waves in Trumpworld, where the former president’s allies have been waging an intensifying campaign to convince Trump to help oust her from her position. His more skeptical turn on Sunday surprised some people close to his political operation who had seen the appeals to Trump, but believed he’d remain above the fray given the nearing general election.

Trump allies have grown increasingly sour on McDaniel over the past few months, and the criticism came to a head last week when FEC filings revealed the RNC had around $8 million cash on hand, marking its worst fundraising year in almost a decade. In recent weeks and days, people close to Trump have ramped up their long-brewing complaints against McDaniel both in public and privately to the former president himself.

“His inner team knows where we stand — Ronna MUST GO,” Steve Bannon texted Semafor. “Have you seen the budget they approved? The projections are masturbatory fantasy.”

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Bannon described the RNC under her leadership as a “Complete Systems Fail,” naming the party’s “get out the vote,” election integrity, “stop the steal,” and fundraising efforts as prime examples.

Last year, the conservative group Turning Point USA waged a campaign against McDaniel, which it lost; she won a fourth term with two-thirds of the vote. But McDaniel’s critics continued to rally conservatives against her, and TPUSA held a conference for RNC members and county GOP chairs last week right next to the venue where the RNC was meeting.

“You can take the average person walking on the sidewalk on a given day, I don’t care who it is —– prop them into the head of the RNC,” Vivek Ramaswamy told the audience in a recorded message.

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Ramaswamy, who dropped out of the presidential race on January 15 and quickly endorsed Trump, told Semafor that McDaniel has a “track record of repeated failure” and argued that the party needs “stronger leadership to ensure decisive victories in 2024.”

The RNC’s own meeting spent copious time on fundraising questions, according to an RNC proxy member who posted his notes from the week on Substack. McDaniel looked past the weak 2023 numbers and emphasized the party’s strong January numbers. But the party’s spending decisions last year were criticized at the time.

After Virginia Republicans narrowly lost the state legislature, McDaniel baffled local party strategists when she suggested that candidates did not message effectively on abortion — an issue the state’s governor had prominently sought to defuse with a proposed 15-week ban. They might have done better, said one strategist, had “we had gotten some help from the RNC.”

Trump’s latest comments represent a sharp change in rhetoric when it comes to McDaniel’s position at the RNC: Last year, he said she’d done a “fantastic job” running the organization and opted against endorsing Harmeet Dhillon, one of his allies who ran against her for the position. After his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, McDaniel urged Republicans to “unite around our eventual nominee, which is going to be Donald Trump,” an unusual direct endorsement from a sitting party chair that came despite Trump shunning the RNC-organized debates.

Still, it’s unclear exactly how strong Trump will ultimately be in the effort to force out McDaniel: She has supporters high up in Trumpworld who will likely caution Trump against involving himself too strongly in the drama.

A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An RNC spokesperson declined to comment.

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Notable

  • David Bossie, a Maryland RNC committeeman and close Trump ally, made a draft resolution late last month to declare Trump as the GOP’s presumptive nominee, despite Nikki Haley still being in the race, The Dispatch reported at the time. Amid a backlash, Trump weighed in and said the measure was not necessary, prompting it to be rescinded.
  • Ronna McDaniel (and her supporters) previously argued to Semafor that the RNC has had wins under her leadership. As McDaniel put it: “I’m not the coach. I don’t pick the players, the voters do. I don’t call the plays, the candidates pick their own plays.”
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