Ronna McDaniel, RNC chair, plans to step down

FILE - Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel speaks at the committee's winter meeting in Dana Point, Calif., Jan. 27, 2023. McDaniel has discussed leaving her role with former President Donald Trump. But both have agreed to delay a decision until after South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, has told former President Donald Trump she is planning to step down shortly after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Trump is then likely to promote the chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, Michael Whatley, as her replacement, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Under the arcana of the committee’s rules, however, Trump cannot simply install someone. A new election must take place, and Whatley could face internal party dissent.


McDaniel has faced months of pressure, a campaign from Trump-allied forces to unseat her and growing dissatisfaction and anxiety in the Trump camp about the strained finances of the RNC as the general election cycle begins early.

Trump likes Whatley for one overwhelming reason, according to people who have discussed him with the former president: He is “a stop the steal guy,” as one of the people described him. He endorses Trump’s false claims about mass voter fraud and Trump believes he did a good job delivering North Carolina, a 2020 swing state, to him.

Whatley has baselessly claimed that election security efforts from Republicans in North Carolina stopped Democrats from cheating. He is also currently the general counsel at the Republican National Committee and has endorsed efforts to develop new voting laws.

Trump and his associates have made focusing on election security a signature point they plan to push in a general election. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud related to the 2020 voting, and Trump’s allies lost dozens of court challenges. Trump has told associates that he thinks the RNC needs to spend more money on “election integrity” in the 2024 race. Trump’s team is also focused on hiring teams of poll watchers, which the North Carolina GOP did during the midterms in 2022.

Trump has complained about the RNC election efforts as insufficient, even as the party has poured resources into creating a full-time “Election Integrity Department,” which has been involved in 77 lawsuits in 23 states, according to the party.

McDaniel and Trump met at Mar-a-Lago, his members-only club in Florida, on Monday. He posted on his social media website, Truth Social, shortly after their meeting, all but declaring that changes are coming. In the post, he described her as “my friend” and said she was “now Head of the RNC, and I’ll be making a decision the day after the South Carolina Primary as to my recommendations for RNC Growth.”

McDaniel had been considering leaving before the end of her term for some time, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. And despite animosity toward McDaniel from some of Trump’s closest allies, he has been uncharacteristically gentle as he has begun to acknowledge her imminent departure in public comments.

“I think she knows that,” Trump told the right-wing media site Newsmax in an interview that ran shortly after his meeting with McDaniel, when asked if it was time for her to step aside. “I think she understands that.”

A press officer for the Republican National Committee did not respond to requests for comment. A senior adviser to Trump, Jason Miller, said in a statement, “Any speculation beyond the president’s post on Truth is just that — speculation.”

Behind the scenes, there has been lobbying for the party chairmanship even before an opening became public. And election-year staff changes have been expected at the committee for a while.

Trump’s influence on the party is not absolute. Last year, he had endorsed Whatley as co-chairman, but Whatley withdrew after trailing Drew McKissick, the chair of the South Carolina Republican Party. Trump also endorsed Joe Gruters for RNC treasurer, but Gruters lost in 2023.

That loss, however, came when Trump was in the early stages of running again for president, not on the cusp of securing the nomination, when party officials are likely to be more deferential.

McKissick is now the RNC’s co-chairman (the party rules designate one male and one female co-chair). He spoke with Trump in recent days and expressed his interest in the job of chairman if McDaniel were to leave, according to three people briefed on his thinking.

A lobbying campaign against Whatley as McDaniel’s replacement has begun even before her departure was official, with some RNC members saying another pick could be a smoother choice for Trump.

Should Trump pick a new male chairman, the role of co-chairwoman would then open up. Several prominent Republican activists have begun lobbying over that potential slot. For instance, Laura Loomer, a far-right activist who supports Trump, is publicly opposing Jessica Patterson for that position.

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