With McDaniel reelection at RNC, GOP leadership trio all keep power despite calls for change

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy all kept their leadership positions after disappointing 2022 midterms.

Published: January 27, 2023 8:19pm

Updated: January 27, 2023 11:21pm

With the reelection of Ronna McDaniel as Republican National Committee chair, the three national leaders of the Republican Party have all retained their positions, despite grassroots clamor for change following a lackluster performance in the 2022 midterms.

On Friday, McDaniel defeated Californina RNC committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell to win a fourth term as party chief.

Of the 167 RNC members voting, McDaniel received 111 votes, with 51 voting for Dhillon, a prominent Republican election attorney, four for Lindell and one for former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who was not nominated as a candidate in the election.

McDaniel will serve for another two years, thus overseeing the 2024 presidential election cycle.

Following her loss, Dhillon posted a video on Twitter, captioning it: "It's been an honor to hear from all the Americans who reached out to share their views about the party's leadership. While we are disappointed with the results, we started a movement & I will keep working to elect Republicans nationwide!!"

"I want to just let everybody know that this is not the end of the process, it's just the beginning of this movement," Dhillon said in the video. "We're gonna make sure over the coming years that we continue to hold our leadership accountable at the RNC, continue to work together with the party wherever we can, to make sure that we are accountable to donors, to voters, to grassroots activists, and to candidates, that we're doing our best for them and most efficiently."

McDaniel faced calls to step down after losing the House of Representatives in 2018, both chambers of Congress and the White House in 2020, and far underperforming expectations in 2022 by winning only a slim majority in the House while failing to regain the Senate.

Elected Florida officials Gov. Ron DeSantis and Rep. Matt Gaetz, major GOP donors like Richard Uihlein and Bernie Marcus, and TV show hosts and political commentators such as Tucker Carlson, Glenn Beck, Ben Shapiro, and Dan Bongino all endorsed Dhillon for RNC chair.

Additionally, the state Republican parties of Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, and Texas expressed no confidence in McDaniel and called for new leadership, while the state parties of Washington, Nebraska and Arkansas endorsed Dhillon.

In a Rasmussen Reports poll of likely Republican voters conducted earlier this week, just 15% supported McDaniel for another term, while 30% supported Lindell, 20% preferred Dhillon, and 21% were undecided, with another 15% who didn't support any of the candidates.

Some who didn't support McDaniel voiced their frustration on Twitter over the RNC chair election results.

Arizona Freedom Caucus member and state Rep. Rachel Jones tweeted Friday: "The re-election of Ronna McDaniel was a huge middle finger to those of us who are fired up and ready to win our country back. This is why it's so important to take back our party at the state level! Choose people who are beholden to YOU. Not special interests and lobbyists."

Article III Project Founder and President Mike Davis tweeted: "Very proud of my friend, Harmeet Dhillon, for waging this crucial uphill battle. [Harmeet's] a bold, fearless, selfless American patriot. She said what needed said. She did what needed done. The DC Republican establishment won this battle. But they will lose the war. Onward."

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, who didn't make an endorsement in the RNC chair race, celebrated McDaniel's win.

"Congratulations to Ronna McDaniel on her big WIN as RNC CHAIR," Trump wrote on Truth Social. "Now we have to STOP THE DEMOCRATS FROM CHEATING IN ELECTIONS!"

While Trump remained neutral in the contest, potential 2024 GOP presidential contender DeSantis endorsed Dhillon, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, another possible presidential candidate, indicated in November that a leadership change was needed in the RNC.

McDaniel's reelection comes after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was reelected to head the GOP in the upper chamber despite a challenge by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) eventually won the speakership after the 15th ballot.

Some Republicans disappointed with election results and the direction of the party have called for new leadership in the GOP.

Gaetz tweeted in November after the midterm elections, "McCarthy, McConnell, McDaniel, McFailure."

Conservative activist Rogan O'Handley tweeted on Friday, following the RNC vote: "We just had the most disappointing midterm election in decades & somehow all the McFailures kept their jobs. They sabotaged MAGA firebrands & failed to fix election fraud. But the only thing we can do now is focus on 2024 & put so much heat on the McF's that they perform. Game on."

Trump, former congresswoman and GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, and Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) expressed their distaste for McConnell earlier this month, noting that his time to leave leadership has come.

"The big problem the Republican Party has is Mitch McConnell," Trump told Just the News, suggesting the senator's history of big spending and family ties to China will undercut the messaging that House Republicans have mapped out for 2023.

"I don't think Mitch McConnell understands that his time is over," Bachmann told the John Solomon Reports podcast. "And people don't want his kind of back-scratching politics, big spending politics. People are done with that. And I would hope, with all due respect, that Mitch McConnell will just recognize that and leave. I think even to leave now in his term would be wise, and to hand the reins over."

Norman agreed. "His time has come and gone," he told the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show. "Mitch McConnell is a problem that's standing in the way of America being great again. And Donald Trump is exactly right and others."

Likewise, during the election for House speaker earlier this month, many House Freedom Caucus members resisted voting for McCarthy, saying they were seeking a candidate who would prevent the passage of another massive spending bill loaded with earmarks.

After 14 ballots, 15 of the conservative GOP holdouts switched to vote for McCarthy, and 6 voted present.

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