DANA POINT, Calif. | Ronna McDaniel easily won reelection as Republican National Committee chairwoman, but the aggressive campaign to topple her nevertheless succeeded in spilling what is usually a private quarrel into the public sphere.
Party officials found themselves inundated by emails, texts and phone calls from supporters of Harmeet Dhillon, and to a lesser extent from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who were vying to block Mrs. McDaniel from an unprecedented fourth term.
Republican activists’ lobbying offensive annoyed and outraged some of the 168 RNC members who get to elect their leader. But it put a new focus on the party’s grassroots that Mrs. McDaniel has vowed to continue in what she also promised would be her final two-year term.
What that means for the direction of the Republican Party is an open question. The chief argument against Mrs. McDaniel was that it was time for a leadership change after disappointing election results in 2018, 2020 and 2022 — though neither Ms. Dhillon nor Mr. Lindell proposed a major shift in direction for the RNC and all three candidates in the race were loyal followers of former President Donald Trump.
“We love the grassroots. We appreciate them. We need them to go knock on doors and be poll watchers,” Mrs. McDaniel said on Fox News after her decisive victory Friday. “And I’m going to be traveling the country, getting them ready for beating the Democrats, because we can only do that united.”
She also invited Ms. Dhillon, an RNC committeewoman from California, to accompany her on the grassroots tour.
“I would love for her to come with me. I want other leaders in our party to come with me,” Mrs. McDaniel said. She also noted that grassroots GOP activists “don’t always understand what the RNC does.”
After the election, Ms. Dhillon said she would support Mrs. McDaniel and she promised in a tweet to “keep fighting for an RNC that wins in 2024!”
RNC members said the grassroots pressure didn’t change the outcome of the election but it did impact the race in other ways.
“There was an outside focus that hasn’t been exerted on to the RNC … in a number of years,” said Virginia Republican Party Chairman Rich Anderson. “I think that there is that diversity of opinion and I think that we have to respect that. I certainly intend to do so as a state party chair and pull those people back in as best I can.”
Cindy Siddoway, an RNC committeewoman from Idaho, said that it was an eye-opening experience to hear directly from GOP voters about the party’s internal deliberations.
“I don’t know how they did it, but they had the media skills to reach out to everybody and that did get them involved,” she said. “I did get a lot of emails, I read every single one. And I did weigh everything they said. I did think there was some misinformation out there. I’m pleased with the way that things did go,” she said.
Mrs. McDaniel earned the support of 111 RNC members who voted in a secret ballot for chair, easily clearing the 84-vote threshold to win.
The pressure campaign earned Ms. Dhillon 51 votes. Mr. Lindell garnered four votes. One RNC member cast an invalid ballot for former Rep. Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican who lost the governor’s race in 2022 and wasn’t on the ballot for RNC chair.
Mrs. McDaniel‘s supporters said she was not the reason for the party’s election losses. They credited her with raising over $1 billion since becoming chair in 2017 and building the party’s national infrastructure.
Ms. Dhillon insisted that the grassroots support her campaign received was organic. She said that activists who supported her and Mr. Lindell independently obtained RNC members’ contact information, despite that information not being posted on the RNC website.
She described the lobbying effort as a sort of tough love from the voters.
“I know some of my colleagues were offended. They said, ‘How dare you call us the establishment and the elite.’ Sorry, honey, you are. That’s the fact,” Ms. Dhillon said.