- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2020

President Trump’s fate at the White House remains in limbo, but he is trying to secure an iron grip on the Republican National Committee.

In a striking move late Wednesday, Mr. Trump endorsed another term for Ronna McDaniel, the RNC chairwoman he picked in 2016.

That wouldn’t be unusual if Mr. Trump emerged from the election victorious.

The president traditionally has his pick installed.

But given that Mr. Trump is projected to lose to Democrat Joseph R. Biden, the move raised eyebrows among Republicans who said it could box out others interested in leading the 168-member body.



The election of the RNC chair is slated for early next year, but Bill Palatucci, a committee member from New Jersey, said the president’s move “stops that entire process in its tracks.”

Ronna is personally popular with a lot of members, and so is the president,” he said. “So the combination of the two would make her difficult to beat.”

Others were flirting with bids for chair if the president lost the White House.

The president’s determination to fight the election results complicates those plans because none of them wants to be seen getting crosswise with Mr. Trump.

But they also fear Mr. Trump, with his endorsement, is trying to lock in his people ahead of another possible presidential run in 2024.

“It definitely puts him in the driver’s seat,” said a senior Republican Party operative. “The thing that is interesting is the second he is out of power, he doesn’t have an official role anymore.”

Mr. Trump’s exit from the White House would put Republicans at a crossroads, with the party grappling with the president’s deep connection to some voters and the revulsion felt by others — apparently leading to his defeat.

The race to head the RNC had been shaping up as the first test of which direction the party wanted to go.

Some pondered whether Donald Trump Jr. or his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, would seek the job.

Others said former RNC Chair Reince Priebus could return or Henry Barbour, a longtime member from Mississippi, would take a stab.

Other names floated include Jane Timken, chair of the Ohio Republican Party; former Rep. Allen West of Florida, chairman of the Texas Republican Party; and David Bossie, a Trump confidante who has led the president’s effort to challenge the election results.

Ms. McDaniel, whom Mr. Trump tapped for the job in 2016, lobbied for the president’s endorsement, according to Republican insiders. They said Mr. Trump likely realized that keeping her on board could be mutually beneficial.

Ms. McDaniel is a niece of Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who was the party’s presidential nominee in 2012 and has been a nemesis to Mr. Trump at times.

Mr. Trump, in endorsing her, praised the RNC-led, vote-building effort.

“With 72 MILLION votes, we received more votes than any sitting President in U.S. history - and we will win!” he tweeted.

Robert Steele, an RNC member from Michigan, said it’s no surprise that Mr. Trump would “endorse Ronna regardless of whether he is eligible to run in 2024 or not.”

“She has done an outstanding job on fundraising, continuing robust data acquisition and building an unprecedented ground game,” Mr. Steele said.

Ms. McDaniel is favored to keep her job — at least for now.

“Any challenge would have come from an anti-Trump faction from outside the RNC,” Mr. Steele said. “The RNC members overwhelmingly support the president. His broadening of the party base, his policies, efforts on behalf of the American people, and his exposure of the D.C. cesspool should be supported by all Republicans.”

Bruce Ash, an RNC member from Arizona, said past presidents have not exactly faded into the woodwork.

“If President Trump decided he wants to continue having a voice, he can certainly do it on his own, but it certainly helps when the amplification comes through the RNC,” he said.

At the same time, Mr. Ash said, things change and the landscape could quickly change for Mr. Trump.

“If he isn’t successful by the first of the year, we are going to see [2024] candidates coming out of the woodwork,” he said.

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