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Ronna McDaniel Hangs On As RNC Chair After Challenge From MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell And Former Trump Attorney

Forbes 1/27/2023 Brian Bushard, Forbes Staff


Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel was re-elected to her fourth term in a secret vote on Friday, defeating two far right-aligned challengers, including a former Trump campaign attorney and MyPillow CEO—and 2020 election denier—Mike Lindell, as frustration grows within the party after two consecutive underwhelming Republican election performances.

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is one of two candidates challenging RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. Getty Images © Provided by Forbes MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is one of two candidates challenging RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. Getty Images

Key Facts

The RNC’s 168 members voted in a secret ballot Friday afternoon at a Southern California resort as McDaniel, the chair of the RNC since 2017, faced calls from inside—and outside—the committee for new GOP leadership.

Harmeet Dhillon, a former Trump campaign attorney who also represented 2022 Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, threw her hat in the ring for the two-year position in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson last month, telling Semafor, “I think people are tired of waiting” for McDanniel to step down.

Lindell, who has repeatedly asserted the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, announced his bid in November in an interview with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, and told ABC News he believes he and Dhillon, combined, had enough votes to hold off a McDaniel victory—drawing parallels to the historic 15-round vote earlier this month for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Dhillon and Lindell, however, were far from being considered favorites in the vote, with McDaniel, a niece of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), reportedly receiving the only standing ovation at a candidate forum on Wednesday, and having support from nearly two-thirds of committee members.

Jeff Kaufmann, the chair of the Iowa Republican Party, told VICE News that Lindell’s bid amounted to a “pseudo campaign,” with just two of the committee’s 168 members reportedly pledging their support for him.

A simple majority of RNC members is needed to win.

Key Background

Even though RNC—and DNC—chair votes typically do not receive much fanfare, Friday’s election is being seen as a measure of Republican party identity, following former President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election and their worse-than-expected results in the November midterm elections, despite a so-called “red wave.” Tensions between the far-right arm of the party and GOP establishment, meanwhile, have been growing, as multiple polls show Trump’s command over the party has been waning, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) emerging as a potential challenger in 2024. It also comes two weeks after a group of far-right “never-Kevins” forced a vote for House speaker to a historic 15 rounds before House members chose McCarthy, but only after he agreed to a series of concessions that have been criticized by centrist Republicans, who worry they could weaken the party’s governing ability.

Chief Critic

In an interview with conservative talk show host Charlie Kirk, DeSantis—believed to be a frontrunner for the Republican presidential primary in 2024—called for “new blood” in the RNC, saying he likes what “Dhillon has said about getting the RNC [headquarters] out of [Washington] D.C.” DeSantis also expressed frustration with the GOP’s performance in the November midterm elections, when Republicans lost a seat in the Senate, giving Democrats a narrow majority, telling Kirk, “we’ve had three substandard election cycles in a row.”


Speaking to Semafor earlier this month, however, McDaniel backed up the Republican party’s performance in the 2018 election—her first as RNC chair—saying, “we defied history” that year, with two Senate seats flipping to the GOP, and that she believes “there’s a tendency to scapegoat or ignore the wins.” McDaniel also told Semafor that she expected she would have “well enough support” to win a fourth term as chair, with 100 of the committee’s 168 members saying they would support her. Benjamin Proto, an RNC member from Connecticut, called it a “mistake” for Dhillon to run for the position, saying “I don’t care what Tucker Carlson thinks the next chairman should do, or what Charlie Kirk does,” the Washington Post reported.

Surprising Fact

Former President Donald Trump did not make a formal endorsement in the race, although Trump aides had reportedly spoken with RNC staff about a possible McDaniel endorsement, though they decided against it. Trump is privately supporting McDaniel, the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, whom he also endorsed in 2017, the Associated Press reported.

Further Reading

The latest leadership test for the Republican Party will be settled by secret ballot (CNN)

Sleepy RNC chair race turns into contentious 3-way contest over party's future (ABC News)

RNC Chair McDaniel fights for reelection in leadership feud (AP News)

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