GOP leadership faces surging revolt as support for McConnell, party chair thrown into question

Ronna McDaniel and Mitch McConnell are being challenged by Republican donors, lawmakers, and party officials.

Updated: January 12, 2023 - 12:13am

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A growing number of Republican donors, officials, and lawmakers are distancing themselves from GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, signaling frustration within the party's current leadership.

House Republicans and former President Donald Trump have been publicly critical of McConnell for approving the year-end $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill.

"The big problem the Republican Party has is Mitch McConnell," Trump told Just the News on Tuesday, 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.

Former congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann echoed Trump's concerns about McConnell, calling on the veteran senator to retire.

"People really do want a change," Bachmann told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Wednesday. "And I hope that Mitch McConnell will take the hint and enjoy the rest of his life with his wife quietly in Kentucky. And we wish him well. I think that's exactly what former President Trump was saying. And I think that the Republican base would agree with that."

Bachmann added she doesn't think McConnell enjoys much support among the Republican base or the American people more broadly.

"One thing politicians need to realize is they have a window of time on the stage, the political stage," she explained. "I don't think Mitch McConnell understands that his time is over. 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."

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) expressed similar sentiments on the "Just the News, No Noise" television program on Wednesday, saying McConnell doesn't stand for conservative principles and should step aside.

"His time has come and gone," said Norman. "Mitch McConnell is a problem that's standing in the way of America being great again. And Donald Trump is exactly right and others. The base senses that, and you just cannot continue under his rule ... the American people are going to have to let their senators know they're not going to stand for Mitch McConnell."

As Republicans increasingly abandon McConnell, they're doing the same with McDaniel as she seeks another term in what's become a highly contested reelection bid for RNC chair.

The latest blow came on Wednesday, when one of the country's foremost conservative donors endorsed attorney and former Trump campaign adviser Harmeet Dhillon, who's challenging McDaniel to be the next chair of the Republican National Committee.

"I am supporting Harmeet Dhillon to become the next chairwoman of the RNC because America's path forward is at stake," Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus wrote in a letter to RNC members obtained by Just the News.

"Harmeet Dhillon is a fighter in our courts, in the media, and elsewhere," the letter continued. "The RNC needs someone with her real-world experience, tenacity, and toughness. Please join me in supporting Harmeet Dhillon for RNC chairwoman."

Marcus, a billionaire who's given a fortune to Republican candidates, framed the RNC leadership race as part of a battle with the political left over the future of America.

"You have one of the most consequential decisions to make when you vote later this month for the next chair of the Republican National Committee," he wrote.

"Liberal elites seem content to manage America's decline. I continue to believe that our best days are ahead of us unless liberal elites win the battle for America's future. This battle will be waged not only at the ballot box, but in state and federal courts, the media, the court of public opinion, our schools, and our streets."

Marcus' endorsement came after more than two dozen major GOP donors collectively endorsed Dhillon in a separate letter published Monday.

"We are calling on members of the RNC to thank Ronna McDaniel for her service and to support the only RNC member seeking to succeed her, Harmeet Dhillon — a bold visionary with the energy and experience to retool the party for success in 2024 and beyond," the donors wrote.

"The Republican Party currently faces the most organized, radical, and weaponized Democrat Party the nation has ever seen," the letter continued. "Despite this clear and present threat to our freedom, the highest levels of the Republican National Committee appear to be more focused on blaming others for their lack of leadership and lining the pockets of cherry-picked consultants than on winning elections."

One reason for the endorsements of high-level donors is trust in how Dhillon would handle their donations.

"Major donors like Bernie Marcus and others have confidence in Harmeet's ability to effectively manage donors' contributions with full transparency and accountability," veteran RNC member Solomon Yue told Just the News.

Dhillon has also received endorsements from key committee members such as Morton Blackwell, founder of the Leadership Institute, a conservative training group.

Meanwhile, GOP officials at the state and local level in the South are increasingly abandoning McDaniel, who's been heading the RNC since 2017.

The latest move came on Tuesday, when Roger Villere Jr., an RNC member from Louisiana who supports Dhillon, confirmed that his state's Republican Party approved an anti-McDaniel resolution over the weekend.

"The grassroots is firmly supporting a change," Villere told NBC News. "Every vote, every call, every day, I hear from people who want someone other than Ronna ... We've had three cycles where we've underachieved significantly, and it's just time."

On Monday, the Alabama GOP said in a statement that it "cannot support or endorse Ronna McDaniel for RNC chair and declare our vote of no-confidence in her leadership."

The state parties in Texas and Arizona have already called on McDaniel to resign, demanding new leadership. Florida's GOP is set to vote on a similar measure next week.

Another recent blow to McDaniel came when Trump last month declined to endorse her, despite initially picking her to run the RNC in late 2016.

"I think they're both good," Trump told Breitbart, referring to McDaniel and Dhillon. "I like them both."

Last month, 107 RNC members signed a letter endorsing McDaniel. To win reelection, McDaniel needs the support of only a majority of the RNC's 168 members. The party will choose its next leader at its winter meetings this month.

It's unclear where the tally currently stands.

McDaniel has faced growing backlash for leading a disappointing performance in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans won less seats in Congress than many experts predicted, leading many within the GOP to call for a change in party leadership.

Under her leadership, Republicans also lost control of the House in 2018 and both the White House and Senate in 2020.

Republican sources told Just the News days after the midterms in November that they were frustrated with McDaniel and officials were calling on her to resign.

Just the News reached out to both McDaniel and Dhillon for comment for this story and has yet to hear back.

McDaniel's reelection campaign spokesperson Emma Vaughn said this week in a statement that RNC members support McDaniel "because of her unprecedented investments in the grassroots, election integrity, and minority communities, and for taking on Big Tech and the biased Commission on Presidential Debates."

Dhillon told Fox News that the RNC is "in a difficult situation," which she blamed on leadership refusing "to take responsibility for failures."