- - Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Republicans had a pretty good election cycle, with one material exception.

In the Senate, assuming the runoffs in Georgia go to the GOP, the Republicans will have held their losses to just one seat (net) and retained control of the chamber.

The House Republicans, under the leadership of NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer, are going to gain about a dozen seats and are now well-positioned to torment House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and take the majority in 2022. It is important to note that in contested races for House seats, Republicans as of this moment have outperformed Democrats by 0.2% and, notably, outperformed President Trump by 3.1% (hat tip to Patrick Ruffini at Echelon Insights).

As a result of the excellent work of the Republican State Leadership Committee, Republicans gained one governor (Montana) and flipped three state legislative bodies. More importantly, they held every one of the 22 state legislative bodies that switched to Republican control in 2016. That’s crucial for the redistricting that is headed our way next year.

There was one part of the party that did not have a good night: The president, whatever you think about the election, is unlikely to take the oath of office again.

Despite this, a week after the election, President Trump took time out from his day job to endorse Ronna McDaniel to continue to be the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.

Such an endorsement is certainly within Mr. Trump’s rights as an American citizen. However, the RNC would be guilty of dereliction of duty if it simply accepted the endorsement uncritically and voted for Ms. McDaniel.

Perhaps some context is in order. Every other year, the RNC, which consists of 168 members — three per state and some territories — votes for its chairman. In 2021, that vote is likely to happen the last week in January.

When there is a Republican president, he essentially selects the chairman who is approved by the committee. When there is not a Republican president, the committee selects one of its own.

There has been no moment, at least in the last hundred years or so, in which a president — of either party — who lost a bid for re-election has been given any say at all in who should be the next party chairman.

This is for obvious reasons, not the least of which is that in the wake of a defeat, the general and appropriate sentiment is that some sort of change is in order.

Moreover, Mr. Trump has made it clear that he is seriously considering following the lead of President Grover Cleveland and may run again for president in 2024. For the RNC to approve his preferred candidate for the chairmanship would make it clear to the dozen or so other Republicans planning to run that the RNC will not be a neutral arbiter in the 2024 race.

It is imperative for the RNC to protect its long-standing neutrality during the upcoming primary. 

Equally as troubling, a chairman endorsed by Mr. Trump would no doubt be entangled almost immediately in the post-White House media empire about to be created by Mr. Trump.

Surely, Mr. Trump is aware of all of this. He knows that installing the RNC chairman would give him control over the party’s apparatus, including fundraising, media, and voter and donor databases. These would be most useful in running for president, creating a media empire, setting up electoral runs for the next generation of the family, or all of the above.

That’s why he endorsed Ms. McDaniel.

This election has been good for the Republicans, in part because Mr. Trump’s partisans turned out to vote. The party needs their energy as it seeks to reorient toward working people and families and away from its more traditional other constituencies.

To do that, the Republicans need to focus clearly on the future. They need to keep and build on the best of the last four years, and sheer away the less appealing parts.

They can’t do that by simply rubber-stamping a chairman who has been completely immersed in both the good and bad of the last four years.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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