RNC installs new leadership as Trump tightens hold on GOP

Donald Trump cemented his control of the Republican National Committee on Friday after members formally voted to install his handpicked candidates — including his daughter-in-law — in top roles at the party.

Michael Whatley, chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, has been named the new chair of the RNC, replacing Ronna McDaniel, whom Trump pressured to vacate her post. While assembled for a hastily called meeting in Houston, the committee also installed Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, as co-chair, and agreed by acclamation to consider Trump to be the party’s nominee.

Trump’s senior campaign adviser Chris LaCivita will be made the RNC’s chief operating officer.

In his acceptance speech, Whatley said the RNC will work “hand in glove” with Trump’s campaign over the next eight months to improve the party’s get-out-the-vote efforts and to “support the sanctity of their vote.”

“If a dollar that we have is not directed towards winning this November, that dollar will not be spent,” Whatley said, a remark that was echoed by Lara Trump as she held up a $100,000 check she said she had just been handed for the RNC.

While picking a family member for a top party role is not standard protocol, it is not unheard of. Ronald Reagan’s daughter was elected co-chair of the RNC in 1987. And it is typical for a president to select allies to run party operations and ensure support from the national committee.

But Trump’s decision to announce a new slate of RNC leaders before securing the required delegates to be the GOP nominee angered some Trump critics both on and off the committee. He did so in February, when Nikki Haley was still running for president, and she criticized both the RNC and McDaniel for trying to push her out of the primary.

RNC members ultimately accepted Trump’s proposal overwhelmingly, paving the way for the committee and Trump’s reelection campaign to work in lockstep as they raise money and determine messaging for the general election.

While the committee previously spent money on Trump’s legal bills, his campaign officials have said Trump will not tap the RNC to do so moving forward. The committee is struggling financially, having had its worst fundraising year in a decade and entering 2024 with less than half as much cash on hand as the Democratic National Committee.

McDaniel recently touted to members that the committee’s fundraising improved in January and February, when it brought in a combined $22.5 million.

McDaniel served as chair longer than any RNC leader in modern history, getting elected to a fourth term in January 2023. Trump picked McDaniel to lead the RNC at the end of 2016, after winning the presidency.

The Republican Party struggled electorally during the seven years that followed, with the GOP losing 40 House seats in 2018, losing both chambers of Congress and the White House in 2020 and underperforming in what was predicted to be a red wave in the 2022 midterms.

McDaniel briefly became emotional when she discussed her family’s support after Trump chose her to take the role as RNC chair. And she lauded changes made at the party while she was in charge, including the creation of the WinRed online fundraising platform, growing the RNC’s email list from 3 million to 50 million subscribers and “engaging minority voters and bringing them into the party.” McDaniel cited GOP gains in 2022 with Asian, Hispanic and Black voters.

She also cautioned the GOP — as she has since before the 2022 midterms — to adjust its messaging on abortion, as well as to embrace early and mail voting. Trump, however, has sent mixed signals to voters on whether he supports early voting efforts.

“President Trump deserves to have the team he wants at the RNC,” McDaniel said.

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