McDaniel faces a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, a California attorney who has been vocal against Trump and unsuccessful Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. McDaniel has positioned himself as a steady hand and honest broker who can unite factions of the party and continue to build the RNC’s financial and field resources.
Interviews with RNC members at a luxury resort here failed to sway Dillon’s appearance in the conservative media and his alliance with right-wing influencers, who at times swayed many of the 168 committee members’ votes to decide the outcome. Still, A A nod of support Thursday morning from a potential presidential candidate Ron DeSantis underscored the fluidity of the race, saying a person close to Dillon’s campaign said he had 11 votes since the Florida governor’s endorsement.
“Only 168 people can vote,” said committee member Benjamin Proto of Connecticut, who is supporting McDaniel. “I don’t care what Tucker Carlson thinks the next president should do, or what Charlie Kirk does,” he said, referring to the Fox News host and Turning Point USA founder, respectively. “So I think it was a mistake on Harmeet’s part, it was a strategic error.”
Win or lose, Dillon turned the race into a contest by tapping into genuine anger among party activists clamoring for some accountability as Republicans underperform in 2022 — a remarkable feat against an incumbent. Middle Ages. Dillon’s supporters have sent thousands of emails and phone calls to pressure members to leave McDaniel.
“We at 168 feel like we know what the party needs,” said committee member Paul Reynolds of Alabama, who is backing Dillon. “Whatever we’re doing right now is not working and it needs to be fixed because, what is a report? Insanity is doing things the same way over and over and expecting different results. It didn’t work.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently survived the same challenges McDaniel is enduring. Race for RNC Chair, Familiar MAGA Vs. The GOP doesn’t exactly fit the establishment template — too focused around the dilemma of sticking with familiar leadership or taking a different path after a series of defeats at the ballot box.
To win the majority and oust some of the 100 members who publicly pledged their support for McDaniel, Dhillon worked to appeal to hardline Trump supporters and Trump skeptics who criticized McDaniel for being too accommodating to the former president.
“He’s a strong voice for change, and I think the RNC needs change,” said committee member Bill Paladucci of New Jersey, a Dillon supporter and the RNC’s most vocal Trump critic. “I’ll readily admit there’s a tension there, but, you know, these are the choices you have to make.”
Trump hasn’t weighed in on the chair race, though he has endorsed other positions. RNC staff and Trump aides debated an endorsement for McDaniel, but staff ultimately decided that helping McDaniel get more votes would not be the best course of action.
Two of Trump’s top campaign advisers, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, attended the event to meet with RNC members. The campaign denied Dillon’s charge that they were there to deliver votes for McDaniel. “We’re working for Donald Trump, the only GOP-announced candidate for president,” LaCivita said. “Why should we not be where the party leadership is? Our focus is on that campaign.
McDaniel did not speak publicly at the RNC meeting but his team has been counting votes behind the scenes all week and expressed confidence Thursday.
For Dillon, trying to run around McDaniel on both sides at once has proven a difficult game. He offered a role to MyPillow CEO and Mike Lindell at the RNC Election who refused to mount his own long-shot bid for the presidency. Dillon’s campaign was run by Carolyn Wren, who raised the funds January 62021, a rally by pro-Trump mobs before rioting at the Capitol. Wren offered RNC members the opportunity to hold events with Lake and other candidates to raise money for their state parties if they vote for Dillon.
At the same time, Dhillon expressed his MAGA faith in broadcast appearances, trying to assert his independence from either Trump or DeSantis, as the party leader must remain neutral in primaries.
“I have not sought the endorsement of any potential candidate for the presidency of the United States, including President Trump,” Dhillon said Thursday. In connection with him the day before. “I think it’s too complicated to say someone is neutral if they get official approval.”
Dillon’s success in booking television airtime and generating activist emails and phone calls was not Translated into flexible votes in the group. He spent relatively little time calling and consulting members. She has And some members were offended by criticisms of the RNC’s spending that could sound like attacks on the members he needs to win.
Much of the campaign was driven by emails among the 168 members. To a message in which Dillon defended his own organization’s work for the RNC, Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufman responded that Dillon was damaging the organization he leads.
“You initially launched your campaign on national television to accuse your fellow RNC members of acting out of self-interest rather than what we believe is best for our party and country,” Kaufman wrote in the email, obtained by The Washington Post. “I wanted to believe you were sincere when you emailed us in December saying you regretted your comments and wanted to apologize. What we have seen, however, is that you are doubling down and attacking our intentions and integrity.
Dhillon’s supporters have urged their colleagues to heed input from thousands of Republicans who have emailed and called, arguing that they are the people members are supposed to represent. But the pressure backfired on some members who saw the form messages as spam rather than genuine expressions of support. Members also reported that many of the messages were rude or threatening.
“We all received thousands of emails, all of them unpleasant. A lot of them are stupid, sad, pathetic,” said one member supporting McDaniel. “Some of them are smart, some of them are engaged, most of them are robots. Scissors, paste.
In a members-only closed-door discussion, Dhillon apologized for the messages, but in a tone that at least heard one man backtracking. Dhillon sought to soften his image, focusing on his biography and history in politics, later calling for an audit of the RNC’s finances and vendors and expanding efforts at election integrity.
After Dhillon said he had done several media interviews and that complaints about his comments were taken out of context, a woman said she had listened to several podcast interviews and that Dhillon’s comments were not taken out of context. Does he join the party? Some people in the room clapped before Dhillon could answer.
The only public debate between the candidates took place off-site, hosted by talk radio host John Fredericks in a humble hotel conference room packed with local Republicans. Lindel was the only one present. Wren appeared on Dillon’s behalf because Dillon had a scheduling conflict with the group meeting. McDaniel did not attend.
Fredericks, later in an interview at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where the RNC meeting will be held, criticized the exclusivity of the event, which many RNC members who support Dillon said was a bad look. “You can’t have a movement and then when you have your party election it’s just for the elite and you have to cut everybody down,” Fredericks said. “This whole atmosphere is representative of the moneyed consultant corruption ring going on at the RNC.”
Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi of Texas, who supports Dillon, said a McDaniel victory would be a slap in the face for Republicans. “You’re basically going to tell them that their voice doesn’t matter,” he said.
Days of meetings showed little sign of resolving divisions within the party or revealing a clear direction for the future, other than continued infighting and discontent.
“We all support Harmeet and we won’t quit,” said Jonathan Barnett, a board member from Arkansas. “Some of these people are going to lose their jobs. Some of these members just don’t believe it or … don’t care.
Dawsey reported from Washington.