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Frontrunner Trump lures attention from GOP presidential debate as McDaniel faces harsh scrutiny

Trump's competing rally marked his latest alternative event in a primary cycle that has seen him skip every official debate thus far.

Published: November 9, 2023 12:05am

The Republican Party found its leadership in the throes of a power struggle Wednesday as former President Donald Trump held a solo rally in opposition to the GOP's third official primary debate, while Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel faced calls for her resignation in the wake of a disappointing 2023 election.

In Miami, Fla., Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, tech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott took the stage for the Republican National Committee's third primary debate, broadcast by NBC

Trump's competing rally a few miles away, meanwhile, marked his latest alternative event in a primary cycle that has seen him skip every official debate thus far. Rather than attend the first contest, Trump opted to release a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. During the second debate, Trump travelled to Michigan to address striking auto workers.

“It’s time for the Republican establishment to stop wasting time and resources trying to push weak and ineffective RINOs and never-Trumpers that nobody wants and nobody is going to vote for,” the 45th president declared, urging an end to any future debates.

McDaniel, meanwhile, has begun to attract considerably harsh scrutiny after Tuesday night's election results. Republican Daniel Cameron failed to wrest the Kentucky governorship from incumbent Democrat Andy Beshear while Virginia Democrats held the state Senate and reclaimed the lower chamber, giving them stronger leverage against Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

In Ohio, pro-abortion activists managed to enshrine a right to abortion in the state's constitution. Collectively, the results marked the latest in a string of major defeats since McDaniel assumed leadership of the RNC in 2017.

At the Miami debate, she instantly become the subject of headlines when Ramaswamy used his opening statement to invite her to resign on stage. "There's something deeper going on in the Republican Party here and I am upset about what happened last night. We've become a party of losers.... Since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017 we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022, no red wave, that never came."

"We got trounced last night in 2023 and I think that we have to have accountability in our party," he added. "For that matter, Ronna, if you want to come up on stage tonight. You want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign... I will turn over my time to you."

Whether sufficiently internal support exists to practically oust McDaniel, dissatisfaction with party leadership among both its heavy hitters and the voting rank and file has decidedly mounted in recent years.

Some of that frustration may have manifested with the unprecedented ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., from the Speaker's chair in October. After a tumultuous leadership battle in that conference, House Republicans ultimately tapped Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., for the post.

Thus far, Johnson has largely earned positive marks from his colleagues with Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., on Tuesday telling the "John Solomon Reports" podcast that "you can boil it down to one word: trust. They trust Mike Johnson, and McCarthy just did not have that."

Calls to boot McDaniel further come as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces mounting calls to retire or resign amid concerns over his deteriorating personal health and heightened tensions with his conference over continued funding for Ukraine.

All three previously faced tough challenges to their leadership in the aftermath of the 2022 midterms, which saw a predicted "red wave" fail to materialize. McCarthy saw dissident conservatives adamantly refuse to support him for Speaker until he ultimately made major concessions to the House Freedom Caucus to win over their votes.

McDaniel, likewise, faced a formidable challenger in Harmeet Dhillon, an attorney who has represented Trump. 

"After three successive terms of underwhelming results at the polls for the GOP. I feel that we owe it to our voters to have a serious debate about the leadership of the party and what we must change to actually win in 2024," she said in December 2022.

McConnell, for his part, fended off a leadership challenge from Florida Sen. Rick Scott in November of that year, shortly after the midterms resulted in a continued Republican minority in the upper chamber.

The constant factor among Republican leadership has remained Trump, who currently holds a 43.7% lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average and leads by 30.3% in Iowa, the site of the first GOP nominating contest, to be held in early January.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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