Ronna Romney McDaniel helped build the Michigan Republican Party that flipped the reliably blue state into Donald Trump’s column last year, and now she hopes to work her magic nationwide as head of the Republican National Committee.
Around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, she is sure to win election to succeed Reince Priebus as RNC chairman. Mr. Priebus has signed off, Mr. Trump has signed off. And the 168-member national committee is all in.
“There’s an exciting two years ahead of us,” Mrs. McDaniel said in an interview with The Washington Times. “Donald Trump has created a movement; my job is to keep momentum behind it, keep it growing for the 2018 challenge. I’m excited.”
Mrs. McDaniel gets credit for having Michigan back a Republican for president for the first time since 1988. Of course, she said, it helped that Mr. Trump bothered to visit Detroit and Flint and Hillary Clinton didn’t.
But then Mrs. McDaniel isn’t your grandfather’s kind of Republican.
“Ronna actually understands the new Trump coalition of culturally conservative populists,” said former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis. “She’s shown the Trump coalition can win, and if in a presidential election you can win in Michigan as a Republican, you can win anywhere.”
Who precisely are these populist Trumpsters?
“Michigan’s ‘Reagan Democrats’ are the quintessential blue-collar, culturally conservative voters who are probably part of the silent Trump majority nationally and that’s so prevalent here in Michigan,” Mr. Anuzis said.
How did Mrs. McDaniel help Mr. Trump get a half percentage point more votes than Mrs. Clinton in Michigan, which has been blue since 1988?
“We put together a ground game two years before — we had our Detroit office open three years before the election,” she said, adding that the state party also engaged blacks the right way — another Republican first if she can make it work nationally.
“We don’t just show up at election time; we’re there full time,” Mrs. McDaniel said.
Mrs. McDaniel’s ascension to the throne of the Republican Party’s national governing body is really Mr. Priebus’ doing. The former Wisconsin Republican Party chairman has known her as a political go-getter in neighboring Michigan and as one of the 168 elected members of the RNC in her role as Michigan chairman.
Mrs. McDaniel is from a distinguished family of Republicans. Her grandfather is former Michigan Gov. George Romney, who challenged Richard Nixon unsuccessfully for the 1968 nomination, and her uncle is 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Oregon RNC member Solomon Yue, an unflinching Trump supporter who was born and raised in communist China, said family history elevated Mrs. McDaniel over the RNC’s other 167 members.
“As the only member of the Romney clan who supported Trump, she will, as Reince knows, be very creditable as national chairman in combating in our own party the never-Trumpers’ obstructionism and the D.C. establishment’s ‘politics as usual’ crowd,” Mr. Yue said.
“Comparing her to Keith Ellison, the likely next Democratic National Committee chairman, I’d say she would easily be in a better position to relate to women voters than he is,” Mr. Yue said.
A practicing Muslim, Mr. Ellison is a U.S. House member from Minnesota who, like other House Democrats, is readying a big-time insult Friday. “I will not celebrate a man who preaches a politics of division and hate,” he said. “I won’t be attending Donald Trump’s inauguration.”
One of her biggest challenges as national chairman will be sweet-talking or hammering donors into giving money in big chunks and small in an era when some major contributors and Mr. Trump may not belong to a mutual admiration society. So, is she any good at it?
“Yes, I am good at raising money,” she said, establishing that shyness is not her thing.
“In Michigan this cycle, we were on our own in some ways — no Senate or governor’s races, so not a lot of national party attention or investment. Yet we still raised upwards of $14 million.”
Mrs. McDaniel, who has two teenage children with her insurance executive husband, sounds eager and confident enough to raise hell as well as money on behalf of Mr. Trump’s movement and her party.
“Donald Trump has brought more energy and excitement to politics in this state and nationally than I’ve seen in long time,” she said. “I saw this at his very first, really. People believe he is going to Washington to fight them.”