December 21, 2022

Is It Time for Ronna McDaniel to Go?

Three disappointing election cycles in a row point to a fundamental flaw in the Republicans’ game.

Elections are among the most ruthless and bottom-line of businesses. Just as in sports, there’s plenty of lip service paid to how a game was played, how a contest was run, but ultimately, only one question matters: Did you win, or did you lose?

Lately, it seems, Republicans have been doing a lot more losing than winning. In the three cycles since Donald Trump’s stunning presidential win in 2016, the party lost control of the House of Representatives in 2018, lost the presidency and the Senate in 2020, and failed to retake the Senate in 2022. While it’s true that the GOP will retake control of the House when the 118th Congress is seated on January 3, this most recent cycle will be remembered as The Red Wave That Wasn’t.

It’s against this backdrop, then, that Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is facing the stiffest challenge of her tenure. And, we think, rightly so.

McDaniel has been the RNC chair since 2017. As such, she’s been responsible for developing and promoting the Republican brand and political platform, as well as fundraising and developing election strategy. Despite a rather mixed record at the helm, she seems likely to keep her job. As The Hill reports, “McDaniel has racked up endorsements for another term from a majority of RNC members, as well as former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Blake Masters, who lost his Senate bid in Arizona last month.”

Let’s stop for a moment and consider how we got here. The Democrat brand is in the toilet. The party’s 80-year-old standard-bearer is the butt of jokes and an international embarrassment. Yet he swept into office in 2020 by beating a Republican incumbent, Donald Trump, who boasted a strong economy, low unemployment, low inflation, a host of domestic and foreign policy achievements, and a job approval rating above 50%. Moreover, Joe Biden did it with a basement-bound campaign.

How? By getting out the vote. By hook or by crook, one way or the other, Democrats have found a way to find and bank every available vote, and Republicans haven’t. And that failure falls squarely on Ronna McDaniel’s shoulders. The GOP has been running some killer ads, and the party’s social media game has improved markedly during McDaniel’s tenure. But its ability to collect more votes than the Democrats hasn’t.

A recent RedState hit piece on McDaniel purported to show a bunch of extravagant spending at the RNC, but a McDaniel spokesperson pushed back: “If critics want to misrepresent and push false narratives about the RNC’s spending this past cycle, they should do the math before realizing it only adds up to 0.8% of the total amount the Chairwoman raised.”

Fair enough. But whatever things McDaniel and her team are spending the remaining 99.2% of RNC funds on clearly isn’t working.

“Change is desperately needed,” said New York Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin in a statement, “and there are many leaders, myself included, ready and willing to step up to ensure our party retools and transforms as critical elections fast approach, namely the 2024 Presidential and Congressional races.” He nonetheless decided last week that he wouldn’t challenge McDaniel.

“However,” Zeldin added, “the issue is Chairwoman McDaniel’s re-election appears to already be pre-baked, as if the disappointing results of every election during her tenure … do not and should not even matter.”

So Zeldin isn’t running, but Harmeet Dhillon is. Dhillon, a civil-liberties lawyer and RNC national committeewoman from California, has been frustrated by what she’s seen during the six years of McDaniel’s tenure at the RNC.

“The party has not been a leader on hustling ballots into the boxes,” Dhillon said. “We’re still talking about emotionally appealing to voters, buying very expensive ads, hoping that people will turn out on Election Day. Guess what? Democrats don’t do that. They get out there where ballot harvesting and early voting are legal, which is in most states now.”

“I’d love to see more engagement with our base of the party,” said Dhillon. “The party’s base has changed. Some members of the RNC were elected during the Reagan era. I was a Reagan era Republican, as well. But this isn’t that party. This is the party of ordinary Americans. This is the party of blue-collar workers. This is the party of people with dreams and a vision for the future. Democrats aren’t offering any of that.”

Dhillon is right. The Republican Party’s composition has changed markedly since the Reagan era, and it now boasts a bigger, more broadly appealing tent than ever. But none of that matters if the party can’t produce more votes in the right districts than the Democrats.

The RNC’s annual meeting is next month, and Ronna McDaniel’s reelection may indeed be pre-ordained. But she needs to be held accountable for the Republican Party’s middling performance in recent cycles, and she needs to greatly improve the party’s vote-gathering game. Or Harmeet Dhillon or someone else will.

In any case, it’s time for the RNC to start winning elections again.

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