WASHINGTON — After watching Donald Trump lead the Republican Party into a third straight poor election season, his supporters seem to be unifying around a consensus: It’s all Ronna McDaniel’s fault.
Rather than blaming the coup-attempting former president — who has made a willingness to spread his lies about the 2020 election a condition of his support — activists, lawmakers and even some fellow Republican National Committee members instead turned against the RNC chairman who is seeking a fourth two-year term.
“To play off a famous slogan, Republicans are tired of losing. And I think we have to radically reshape our leadership to win,” said Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC member from California who counts Trump as a client of law, in her announcement on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program that she would challenge McDaniel for the presidency.
Dhillon did not respond to questions from HuffPost. Neither during her appearance on Carlson’s show on Monday nor on Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast the next day did she even mention Trump.
‘Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining,’ she told Bannon, ridiculing the idea that midterm was a success because Republicans will take control of the House . “We really need a new perspective.”
Former New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, who lost his gubernatorial bid in November, announced on Wednesday that he would not seek the chairmanship of the RNC. “President McDaniel’s re-election already appears to be pre-cooked, as if the disappointing results of every election during her tenure, including yesterday’s in Georgia, didn’t and shouldn’t even matter” , he said in a statement, then added in a tweet: “That doesn’t mean she should even run again. It’s time for the GOP to elect a new leadership! It’s time for fresh blood!
Spokespersons for McDaniel did not respond to questions from HuffPost.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks during a campaign rally with Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker November 29, 2022, in Greensboro, Georgia.
Other Trump supporters argue that it’s not just McDaniel who needs to be ousted, but also Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, the likely speaker in January. “The GOP needs more Lee Zeldin, Harmeet Dhillon, Thomas Massie, Mike Johnson, Jim Jordan and less corrupt McLeadership”, wrote former Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, whose last three references are Trump allies in the House.
A common gripe is that McDaniel did not advocate early voting and mail-in voting, giving Democrats a huge advantage ahead of Election Day. “I think Republicans were unwilling, for some reason — reluctant, resistant — to vote early and vote by mail,” said Fox host and informal Trump adviser Sean Hannity.
Fox host Laura Ingraham complained to former Trump White House adviser Kellyanne Conway that she was ‘pissed’ and ‘crazy’ about losing Georgia’s Senate runoff tuesday. Conway responded that Republicans need to start taking better advantage of early and mail-in voting.
“We have to compete not just for the votes, but for the ballots. We have to compete for the ballots. If we don’t get the ballots in early, we’re going to keep losing,” Conway said.
Ingraham replied that “everyone” had advised against it, including “at the top of the Republican Party” – to which Conway replied: “Not everyone.”
The exchange, however, entirely evaded Trump’s vilification of mail-in voting during his 2020 re-election bid, when he claimed, without evidence, that the process was corrupt. In fact, Conway herself defended this position during a May 27, 2020 session with reporters at the White House.
“They line up at Georgetown Cupcake for an hour to get a cupcake. So I think they can line up to do something as consequential and critical and constitutionally important as voting,” she said. “Then is online voting. Then, very soon, DoorDash and Uber Eats will deliver everything we need, including our ballots.
Conway told HuffPost on Wednesday that she advocated for using the rules in place. “I advocated voting early and catching up with Democrats on the bank ballots as soon as possible because that’s the new normal in many states,” she said.
When Republicans see Senator Schumer presiding over the US Senate, they have no one to blame except Don Trump.RNC member Bill Palatucci
Yet critics of McDaniel — and of McConnell and McCarthy, for that matter — also ignore that it was Trump who insisted on his personal loyalty to him in GOP candidates and especially that they repeat his election lies — a trait. that many independent voters found repugnant and dangerous.
“If you are supported by him in the primary, you have every chance of winning. If you get endorsed by him overall, you stand to lose,” said Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, one of the few GOP senators willing to publicly blame Trump. “So for someone who actually wants to win an election, to be endorsed by him is the kiss of death.”
Bill Palatucci, one of the few RNC members willing to publicly criticize Trump, agreed that the former president, who is once again seeking the White House, is the real underlying problem. “When Republicans see Senator Schumer presiding over the United States Senate, they have no one to blame but Don Trump,” he said, referring to the New York senator who, starting in January, will have even more authority as Majority Leader thanks to the Georgia Runoff Result.
McDaniel, a former Michigan State party chairman, was chosen by Trump to lead the RNC after his upset victory at the White House in 2016. She remained despite the beating Republicans suffered midterm in 2018 , then again in 2020, at Trump’s request. , despite his own loss.
She told her followers that she had blocked 100 of the 168 member votes, but that was before Dhillon’s announcement.
“There is no doubt that most RNC members love Ronna, but the question is, can the base persuade RNC members who have already pledged to support Ronna to choose another candidate?” said a senior member on condition of anonymity. “Or can the base help Ronna understand that the party needs a change because the RNC members are clearly unwilling to do the dirty work and show her the door?”
The RNC will choose its chairman ahead of the 2024 presidential election at its winter meeting in January.
Trump is under investigation by the Justice Department for his role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including the plan to submit to the National Archives fraudulent voter lists from states that voted for Democrat Joe Biden as the average. pressuring Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence to grant Trump a second term. A separate investigation is investigating Trump’s removal of highly classified White House documents and subsequent refusal to hand them over, even in defiance of a subpoena.
In addition to federal criminal investigations, a Georgia prosecutor is examining attempts by Trump and his allies to coerce state officials into falsely declaring him the winner in that state.
Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His instigation of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol — his latest attempt to stay in power — resulted in the deaths of five people, including one police officer, the injury of 140 officers, and the suicide of four officers.
At rallies and in statements on his personal social media platform, Trump continued to lie about the election and the work of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee, calling it a “hoax” similar to previous investigations into the acceptance of Russian aid by his 2016 campaign and his attempt to extort Ukraine to help him in his 2020 campaign.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.