But for the stubborn team voting for Harmeet Dhillon, the California national committee member who takes on McDaniel, the pleasant surroundings are all the more reason to keep making their case. Parading around the hotel its high-profile surrogates, former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and country artist John Rich, Camp Dhillon set them up with members they say might still be persuaded that the RNC needs change.
As a GOP operative at the meeting put it, RNC members have “historically stabbed each other” in secret ballots, citing past races for lower leadership positions where candidates found out the hard way that they didn’t get the votes they were promised.
Tennessee national committee member Oscar Brock, a member of Dhillon’s whip team, worked with committee colleagues in the station’s lobby on Wednesday night, keeping a mental list of potentially undecided members to speak with. By his tally, up to 30 members remain on the fence in a race where the winner will need a majority – at least 85 of 168.
Caroline Wren, a Republican strategist who is leading the campaign for Dhillon’s chair, said Wednesday night that Dhillon “needs to influence at least 12 more people,” but noted she has well over a day to do so and that she had just delivered an “incredibly moving speech” about him. of immigrant background to members at a closed-door candidates’ forum that evening.
Roger Villere, the Louisiana national committee member, told POLITICO he spoke Wednesday with three members who had changed their vote to Dhillon, but did not specify who.
“I think Ronna still has the edge, but Harmeet is still in the fight,” Brock said with a smile. “There are saints, sinners and saviors.”
But although Dhillon’s allies have said a handful of undecided members have rallied behind them since arriving at the luxury resort, there has been no clear sign of mass movement towards the San Francisco lawyer – the kind of boost she needs after listing just 30 member mentions. , compared to more than 100 by McDaniel.
On Wednesday, McDaniel’s team announced that two other members were publicly supporting it, the state party presidents of Wisconsin and Vermont, who had not yet weighed in on the race. It happened hours after the Dhillon team showed up in force at an evening happy hour in the hotel lobby.
Next to windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Dhillon and a dozen supporters greeted fellow members gathered at the hotel bar on Tuesday evening before the official start of business.
Among those lobbied was Paul Dame, the Vermont GOP chairman, who said he had kept an open mind about the race over the past two months and had delayed his vote until to Wednesday morning.
Dame released a statement endorsing McDaniel, criticizing Dhillon’s aggressive campaign tactics that disparage the party and its current officials in the process. In an interview, Dame said he came to the conclusion after one too many Dhillon tweeted at the RNC establishment – a tactic she and her allies have championed as a necessary part of the campaign. against the owner.
“She kind of set up her campaign around the idea that ‘the RNC is corrupt, and it’s going to stay corrupt unless you put me in place to fix it,'” Dame said. “And I think that puts us in a very difficult situation, and it created unnecessary division.”
While Dame had originally planned to keep quiet about his vote, he decided to type out a lengthy statement explaining his decision.. Dame said he knows he will have to talk about his vote and his confidence in McDaniel’s abilities with grassroots activists in his state who have been energized by Dhillon’s candidacy and believe Dhillon is on the right track. path to ousting McDaniel this week.
“I really felt like there needed to be a voice to defend Ronna, to prepare people who might otherwise get upset on Friday if it was a sudden shock,” Dame said.
During her speech at the members’ forum on Wednesday night, Dhillon directly addressed criticism that she disparaged fellow Republicans and used divisive rhetoric. She responded to an email sent to all members this week by McDaniel supporter Jeff Kaufmann, the Iowa GOP chairman, who highlighted examples of Dhillon’s public comments about RNC members having “contempt for the base” and members working “very little” between RNC rallies. .
“When I look at what I seem to have been characterized as saying, it looks like I’m a horrible person,” Dhillon said, according to a person in the room. “From the bottom of our hearts, just as we don’t like the liberal national news media misrepresenting what we say, let’s also be fair to each other and understand that…if you only put half the answer, you might get a distorted view of how I feel.
The only public “debate” in the presidential race took place on Wednesday afternoon and featured just one of the three candidates – My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, another challenger who has only only one publicly declared supporter. Dhillon has sent surrogate, political strategist and fundraiser Caroline Wren, who is advising his campaign for the presidency. Wren said Dhillon was unable to participate in the debate due to committee meetings she was scheduled to attend this afternoon.
A name tag for McDaniel remained in front of an empty seat as Lindell and Wren teamed up to criticize her performance as party chair. McDaniel had previously said she would not participate in a rogue debate, explaining that she was already participating in the RNC members-only candidates forum being held Wednesday night at the Waldorf.
The live-streamed public forum, hosted by conservative radio host John Fredericks, a McDaniel critic, was held at a budget hotel 2 1/2 miles down the road from the RNC station. Grassroots activists filled the small rented meeting room, where Virginia national committee member Rich Anderson, who says he hasn’t decided how he will vote, moderated the forum.
Other signs of McDaniel’s continued grip on the RNC are evident in retirement. High-profile Republicans who endorsed his re-election bid, including former Trump White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and Family Research Council Chairman Tony Perkins, were chosen to headline a members’ lunch and dinner on Thursday.
And while Dhillon’s team handed out tote bags with their campaign signs and continued to lobby members for their support, McDaniel’s campaign team took a more subtle approach at the meeting, although she had surrogates on hand for support like Reince Priebus, a former RNC chairman and Trump. The White House chief of staff, as well as former Georgia lawmaker Vernon Jones.
Dhillon and McDaniel are expected to host late-night information receptions for members ahead of Friday’s vote.
“We’re getting very, very close,” Wren said. “But I’m not going to lie: it’s still an uphill battle.”
Rachael Bade contributed to this report.