The Republican National Committee held a secret ballot election on Friday to choose its chair for the next two years, and it involved incumbent Ronna McDaniel fending off challenges from Conservative attorney and activist Harmeet Dhillon as well as MyPillow founder Mike Lindell.
On the eve of that election, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appeared to break with the GOP establishment and, in a surprise to some, signaled his support for one of McDaniel’s challengers, the Daily Wire reported.
“I think we need a change”
In a Thursday interview with Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, Gov. DeSantis seemed to offer up a critique of McDaniel’s leadership of the RNC over the past several election cycles since she was first elected to that position in 2017 with the backing of then-President Donald Trump.
“We’ve had three substandard election cycles in a row, ’18, ’20, and ’22, and I would say of all three of those, ’22 was probably the worst, given the political environment of a very unpopular President Biden, huge majorities of the people think the country is going in the wrong direction,” the governor said. “That is an environment that’s tailor-made to make big gains in the House and Senate and state houses all across the country, and yet that didn’t happen.”
“I think we need a change. I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC,” he continued, according to The Post Millennial. “I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC out of D.C. Why would you want to have your headquarters in the most Democrat city in America? It’s more Democrat than San Francisco is.”
“I do think we need some fresh thinking and — here’s the thing, just practically speaking, you need grassroots Republicans to power this organization with volunteering and donations,” he said. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to energize people to want to give money, to want to volunteer their time with the RNC, if they don’t see a change in direction.”
Florida GOP ran its own election with little help from RNC
Kirk asked about the governor’s “personal experience” with the RNC and noted how the organization had claimed Florida as a resounding victory in the 2022 midterm elections, but DeSantis seemed to have a different take on how and why his state performed so much better than other states for the GOP.
“We actually ran our election assuming we weren’t going to be involved with the RNC at all, because they weren’t raising the type of money that they needed to be raising,” DeSantis said. He instead credited the Florida GOP’s own self-funded efforts aimed at securing voter support, and said, “So it was very successful, you know, but that was really being driven by our agenda, our accomplishments, and us putting a lot of dollars behind this important ground game.”
🚨BREAKING: Gov. DeSantis calls for Change at the RNC🚨
“We’ve had 3 substandard election cycles in a row, ’18, ’20, and ’22, and I’d say ’22 was the worst…I think we need a change. I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC. I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said…” pic.twitter.com/dayeCSVtJ0
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) January 26, 2023
DeSantis went on in that interview to critique the RNC for spending too much money on consultants and not enough on supporting candidates and the increasingly obvious lack of trust between the grassroots GOP and the RNC in D.C., and asserted that he actually raised more money for candidates on an individual basis as compared to when the RNC was involved in fundraising events.
Too little, too late?
Unfortunately, the apparent endorsement of Dhillon by Gov. DeSantis was not sufficient to dethrone McDaniel, as Fox News reported that the incumbent chair won an unprecedented fourth term as head of the RNC by an overwhelming margin.
Of the 168 members who cast secret ballots at the RNC’s winter meeting in southern California, of which a majority was needed to win, McDaniel received 111 votes in comparison to 51 for Dhillon, four for Lindell, and one vote for former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who had initially expressed interest in the job but was not a nominee.
In her victory speech, McDaniel called for unity and pledged to work closely “alongside conservative leaders, including Harmeet and Mike, from across our party to deliver on our promises to the American people.”
As for Dhillon, she said the GOP “will be better for the tough conversations that were desperately needed about how to reform the RNC to win elections and earn the trust of our voters, activists, and donors,” and also added that she would work cooperatively with both the RNC and grassroots and urged her supporters to rally in support of the national organization that rejected her leadership bid that was seemingly backed by the most popular Republican governor in the country.