For Republicans, the months following the 2022 midterm elections have been consumed with a healthy dose of soul-searching — and finger-pointing — about why the results were so disappointing for the party.
Disappointment has colored the gaze toward 2024 as leaders, officials and activists debate who will lead the GOP at the top of the presidential ticket and the Republican National Committee.
At a glitzy hotel in the southern California enclave of Dana Point on Friday, the second question will be answered as RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel seeks to argue that despite midterm results she is in the best position to help the party win next year. .
McDaniel is trying to fend off a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC member from California who heads the Republican National Lawyers Association, as well as a long-running offer from My Pillow founder and top election conspirator Mike Lindell. Voting by secret ballot will take place during the open press portion of the RNC’s three-day winter meeting, which opens on Wednesday. A calendar of the rally shows a candidates’ forum scheduled for Wednesday.
RNC officials will also discuss debates, rules and resolutions for the upcoming primary and general elections. The party is the ongoing audit of the last election is likely to happen – but the main event will be the vote on McDaniel’s bid to run the RNC for a fourth two-year term.
McDaniel, who was handpicked by then-President Donald Trump, faced heat from some Republicans and conservative media figures for the party’s lackluster results in November. That includes from his main challenger, Dhillon, who argued that the first step Republicans need to get back on track to win in the next election cycle is to replace McDaniel.
But McDaniel, who launched her re-election bid last year with an endorsement list of more than 100 of the RNC’s 168 members, argued she had set up the RNC better for future success by pointing out the turnout efforts and initiatives she says paid off for the party. McDaniel also argued that while she can lead the RNC, she has no say in selecting candidates or running their campaigns – signaling that she believes the quality of candidates was the main problem of the went to the polls in 2022.
Party chairmen often come under scrutiny when their party enters the wilderness, and with a thin and rowdy majority in the House and questions about how Trump will fare in 2024 after his shortcomings in approval in the fall, the GOP finds itself searching for answers.
Against this backdrop, McDaniel has become a prime target for conservative activists seeking change but reluctant to confront any role the former president or abortion policy might have played midterm.
Ahead of the annual winter rally, GOP activists nationally and locally led a kind of Sunbelt uprising against McDaniel that stretched from Arizona to Florida, where state parties adopted or considered holding votes of no confidence in him. Meanwhile, an RNC official formally accused a McDaniel ally of engaging in “religious bigotry” targeting Dhillon’s Sikh faith while discussing the party’s presidential race.
But cold math shows McDaniel has a sizable advantage over Dhillon – McDaniel having the public support of more than 100 RNC members, well beyond the majority needed to retain his seat on Friday, compared to Dhillon, who won the support about 30 .
“It’s really been kind of member-driven,” North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley told NBC News last year, saying he signed a pro-McDaniel letter without hesitation after the November elections because it responded to the state party leaders’ needs.
“For me, it wasn’t a close call,” he said. “Every time I called her the answer was yes. I’m not surprised people rallied behind her or around her as quickly as they did.”