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DeSantis wades into RNC race: ‘I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said’

The Hill logo The Hill 1/26/2023 Caroline Vakil
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is praising California attorney and former Trump campaign adviser Harmeet Dhillon amid in her bid to take the Republican National Committee chairmanship away from Ronna McDaniel, saying in an interview on Thursday, “I think we need a change.”

“I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC,” DeSantis told Charlie Kirk, the founder of conservative Turning Point USA. 

“I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC out of D.C. Why would you want to have your headquarters in the most Democrat city in America? It’s more Democrat than San Francisco is,” he continued, appearing to refer to a letter that Dhillon sent to RNC members about looking into regional offices while keeping their headquarters in Washington.

The Florida governor, who is considering a 2024 presidential bid, lamented the performance of Republicans in the last three election cycles.

“We’ve had three substandard election cycles in a row: ‘18, ‘20 and ‘22. And I would say of all three of those, ‘22 was probably the worst. Given the political environment of a very unpopular president in Biden, huge majorities of the people think the country is going in the wrong direction — that is an environment that’s tailor-made to make big gains in the House and the Senate and in state houses all across the country. And yet that didn’t happen,” DeSantis told Kirk.

DeSantis’s comments come just one day before the RNC committee members will hold a secret ballot vote for several positions, including their chairperson. The RNC is wrapping up candidate forums on Thursday ahead of those votes. 

Dhillon responded to DeSantis’s comments while speaking to reporters on Thursday, saying “I don’t know if I would call it an endorsement” but acknowledged “it’s gratifying to see leaders in our party listening to the grassroots.”

“What I like about what Gov. DeSantis said today is it was really grassroots-oriented, and it really focused on what people are saying in the country,” Dhillon said, suggesting an overwhelming majority of Republicans wanted new leadership within the RNC.

In addition to McDaniel and Dhillon, the staunchly pro-Trump MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is running to lead the party.

Some Republicans have called for McDaniel to step down, as the party was unable to win the House in 2018, lost the Senate and presidency in 2020 and was unable to flip the Senate last November.

McDaniel, however, has endorsements from dozens of state party chairs and RNC members. She needs the votes from a majority of the 168 RNC members to keep the position.

—Updated at 4:54 p.m.

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