Former President Donald Trump endorsed a new slate of Republican National Committee leaders on Monday to replace the RNC’s current Chair Ronna McDaniel.
Trump wants North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley as the RNC’s new chair and his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as co-chair. Trump also backed Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to his presidential campaign, as chief operating officer.
The RNC, however, says McDaniel has no plans to immediately step down, though reporting leading up to Trump’s endorsement suggested she would leave after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24.
The possible shake-up at the main organizing apparatus for the Republican Party comes as Trump seems poised to become the GOP’s presidential nominee — and after the RNC posted lackluster fundraising numbers to close out the year. The RNC ended 2023 with only $8 million on hand, while the Democratic National Committee had $21 million.
The ex-president’s endorsement of loyalists to run the RNC before he’s even secured the nomination underscores his chokehold on the party. Nikki Haley, who was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Trump’s Cabinet, is the last obstacle standing between Trump and another matchup against President Joe Biden.
Whatley is a fierce Trump ally and booster of his lies about a rigged election in 2020. The New York Times reported that Trump had grown frustrated with McDaniel and claims to be seeking a leader who will prioritize “election integrity” in the 2024 contest.
“The RNC MUST be a good partner in the Presidential election. It must do the work we expect from the national Party and do it flawlessly,” Trump said in his statement. “That means helping to ensure fair and transparent elections across the country, getting out the vote everywhere ― even in parts of the country where it won’t be easy ― and working with my campaign, as the Republican presumptive nominee for President, to win this election and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
The RNC still has to vote on Whatley and Lara Trump once McDaniel chooses to step down. But the committee is likely to follow Trump’s wishes to install a new slate of loyalists in a presidential election year.
McDaniel has been a staunch defender of Trump throughout her seven years as RNC chair. She reportedly dropped her maiden name, Romney, at Trump’s request (which McDaniel has denied). The niece of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the Senate’s most outspoken Republican critic of Trump, had previously gone by Ronna Romney McDaniel.
McDaniel also defied party norms about maintaining neutrality during a primary when she suggested that Republicans should rally around Trump as the presumptive nominee despite his having won only two nominating contests so far.