Ronna McDaniel won the battle for the GOP Friday, gaining a fourth term as head of the Republican National Committee after an election that laid bare deep internal divisions within the party.
Just two years after unanimously winning a third term, the 49-year-old McDaniel received the backing of just 111 of the 168 voting RNC members — still far more than the 84 needed to win reelection.
Harmeet Dhillon, a legal adviser to former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign and a former vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party, received 51 votes.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an avid Trump supporter who has insisted that the 2020 presidential election was rife with voter fraud, received just four votes.
Former congressman and New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin received one vote despite removing himself from contention last month and declaring McDaniel’s victory to be “pre-baked.”
Dhillon had insisted that the party needed new leadership and had called for the RNC to move its headquarters out of Washington. Her aggressive campaign against McDaniel including allegations of chronic misspending, mismanagement and even religious bigotry against Dhillon’s Sikh faith — all claims that McDaniel denied.
The night before the vote, Dhillon ripped McDaniel’s performance as RNC head in a speech to her supporters, saying: “I know she’s done her best and I also know that that isn’t good enough for the next three years.”
On Friday morning, Dhillon tweeted out a warning that Republicans “must change—or keep losing” and hinted at political consequences for those who would continue to back the incumbent McDaniel.
“Ignoring the will of the voters in your state is a good way not to get elected again,” she told the Associated Press before the balloting began.
McDaniel, meanwhile, pleaded for RNC members to rally behind her despite presiding over three prior cycles in which the GOP lost the House, White House and Senate before failing to make expected gains in last year’s midterms.
“Coming together is the beginning. Staying together is progress. But working together is success,” she said. “We have to come together after this meeting and focus on what we have ahead of us.”
Florida governor and potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis had signaled his support for Dhillon on Thursday, calling for “new blood” at the RNC after the GOP won a net of just nine House seats and lost a Senate seat in the Nov. 8 elections.
Dhillon referenced DeSantis’ quasi-endorsement in her voting eve speech, saying the Florida governor was “in touch with the grassroots in our country, and he gets it. And he gets it like all of us RNC members and supporters here who know it’s not good enough. Those grassroots around the country are saying it more loudly, and perhaps less elegantly, and not with a cocktail in their hand, ‘That is not good enough.’”
Trump had privately backed McDaniel — dispatching a handful of his lieutenants to advocate on her behalf — though some of his most prominent acolytes had pushed for a change in RNC leadership.
Most notably, failed Arizona gubernatorial contender Kari Lake, who has spread her own claims that her election was stolen, courted RNC members on Dhillon’s behalf this week at the RNC’s winter meeting in Orange County, Calif.
After the vote, McDaniel thanked Dhillon and Lindell for running “the race you ran [and being] the leaders you are in our party.”
“I can’t say enough wonderful things about Mike and Harmeet,” she said. “We need all of us – we heard you grassroots, we know. We heard Harmeet, we heard Mike Lindell, but with us united and all of us going together, the Democrats are going to hear us in 2024 when we take back the White House.”
The beaten Dhillon said in a statement that the GOP “will be better for the tough conversations that were desperately needed about how to reform the RNC to win elections and earn the trust of our voters, activists, and donors.”
McDaniel, the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), is on course to be the longest-serving RNC chairperson since the first man to hold that position, Edwin Morgan, who occupied the post from 1856 to 1864 while simultaneously serving as New York’s governor and getting elected to the Senate.
I am done with this party. Trump will get donations direct to him but RNC can kiss my butt. Sure I’m not alone with this.