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The GOP's Civil War Approaches an Apogee
fire Ronna McDaniel into the sun
I know it is Saturday night, but consider this my weekly Sunday article for paid subscribers only.
I sometimes catch flak for pontificating on American politics despite the fact that I am not American. Here is my official response:
In 12 days from now, the Republican National Committee (RNC) will vote to elect the next chair of the Republican Party. The next chair will lead the party through the 2024 presidential election, and set the tone for the conservative movement in the most powerful country in the world.
The incumbent is Ronna McDaniel, who happens to be Mitt Romney’s niece. In fact she only got the job in the first place because she’s Romney’s niece. Ronna has held the position since 2017 and has gone 0-for-3 in elections — she lost the 2018 midterms, the 2020 presidential election, and the 2022 midterms. This is the main knock against her: she’s a serial loser. Despite this track record of failure, her salary has more than tripled, to $400,000 a year, since she was appointed as chair in 2017.
Challenging her is Harmeet Dhillon, a firebrand lawyer (and Trump 2020 campaign legal adviser) who frequently makes appearances on Tucker Carlson’s nightly show. Dhillon has known Tucker since the early 1990s, when they both worked as assistant editors on Heritage Foundation’s “Policy Review” magazine.
Mike Lindell, the pillow guy, is also running.
I will leave analysis of Lindell out of this article because he has no chance at winning, let alone picking up any votes. His main contribution to the race has been to attack Harmeet for being Sikh rather than Christian, which caused a minor uproar. Reached for comment about anti-Sikh comments, Lindell told POLITICO to “shove it.”
“People aren’t bigots because they ask questions. That’s a legit question: Is the Republican Party, or even the Democratic Party ready for someone of the Sikh faith? If someone from another faith wants to be the leader of our party, then you’re going to be the leader of tens of millions of Christians. And there’s not been any conversation about that at all. That’s just the fact of the matter.”
— Republican activist Christian Horn
Is Ronna’s Support Soft?
For all intents and purposes, this is a 2-horse race between Ronna and Harmeet.
Their fates will be decided by the NRC’s 168 voting members —- 3 votes from each state and territory, plus DC. Ronna needs to win a majority of these 168 votes. She fervently tells anyone who’ll listen that she has this locked-up.
In a statement to The Hill in December 2022, a Ronna spokesperson bragged about the existence of an open letter being circulated proving that 107 committee members have endorsed her re-election bid, which is 22 more votes than the 85 she needs for a majority.
The real question, now, is how many of those 107 signatories will defect when it comes time to cast their secret ballot.
“R.N.C. members are very experienced politicians. They’re experts at looking you in the eye and saying, ‘I love you,’ and in a secret ballot slitting your throat.”
-Bill Palatucci, RNC committee member from New Jersey
In recent weeks, an increasingly large cadre of Republicans are calling for Ronna’s head, and if there is one thing politicians have a skill for, it’s following the political winds wherever they may blow. They can sense when one of their own is about to be ruthlessly cut loose… blood is in the water, and these sharks can smell it.
I heard gossip through the neocon grapevine that committee members marked down as publicly supporting Ronna are now privately saying they will abandon her on the secret ballot while others are ditching her publicly.
Since Ronna bragged about that letter with 107 signatories, the Texas, Florida, and Arizona GOP have all unexpectedly expressed “no confidence” in her.
Hmmm… seems like the pitchforks are coming out. It’s not crazy to think as Texas, Florida, and Arizona go, so goes the rest of the Republican apparatus. A couple of weeks after these initial 3 defections, the Alabama GOP then defected from Ronna to Harmeet.
One day later, Roger Villere Jr., an RNC member from Louisiana, confirmed that the Louisiana GOP approved an anti-McDaniel resolution.
"The grassroots is firmly supporting a change," Villere said. "Every vote, every call every day, I hear from people who want someone other than Ronna. … We've had three cycles where we've underachieved significantly, and it's just time."
Caroline Wren, above, seems to be at the center of alot of the chaos. I've never heard of her, but apparently she is a powerful GOP fundraising operative? She went on Steve Bannon’s show and straight up bluffed/lied about Ronna not having enough votes… she's trying to manifest it.
“Woah, Woah, Woah. Don’t bury the lede. Are you telling our audience right now that Ronna McDaniel is below a first ballot win, she’s below 84?” asked Bannon, skeptically.
Wren affirmed this, with no proof… classic political fixer.
Arkansa GOP passed a resolution in support of Dhillon’s candidacy last week.
Tennessee GOP voted to express opposition to McDaniel’s continued leadership.
I am sure I am missing a few other states which have pledged support for Harmeet — I did my best attempt at a whip count, but it’s hard to keep track of all 168 votes, especially because it’s a secret ballot.
My point is that the tide is clearly turning against Ronna as the race unfolds. It’s a virtual certainty that she’s lost some of those 107 who pledged support to her before this grassroots swell… the question is if it will be enough.
To quantify this swell in anti-Ronna sentiment, a poll was released a couple of weeks ago that shows an incredible 73% of Republican voters said the party should elect someone new to lead the RNC. Only 6% (!!) of those surveyed said McDaniel should be reelected to a fourth term.
A second poll, conducted this week, had Ronna McDaniel’s support at a meager 14%. These appear to be robust results from reliable polling outfits which hold steady across age demographics and state lines. The evidence is clear: the Republican base wants to replace Ronna.
McDaniels’ spokesman dismissed this poll, saying, ”Chairwoman McDaniel’s decision to run for re-election was member driven … Member support for the Chairwoman has grown since her announcement and she will … compete and win.”
That statement gets to the crux of the problem — Chairwoman McDaniel’s decision to run for re-election is “member driven” — means that it wasn’t driven by the party base, but rather by a cabal of 168 elite party insiders. Ronna wants to be re-elected in SPITE of what the grassroots voters want, not because of it.
This disconnect between the base and the leadership is what pisses off Republican voters; their interests are routinely discarded in favor of entrenched special interests. The RNC "is an incumbent protection program," said former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer when asked about this Harmeet vs. Ronna fight.
President Trump, for his part, has stayed out of it. "I think they're both good. I like them both," he said when asked. Both Harmeet and Ronna are fairly MAGA, so I guess this makes sense, but he handpicked Ronna in 2017 and pushed hard for her then, so his lack of overt support for her this time around is telling.
While Ronna is nakedly a Trump flunkie, Harmeet is more of a generic Republican.
In my opinion, Ronna should obviously be dumped not only for her losing track record, but also for being a Trump stooge at a time when they are heading into an open primary. For a free and fair primary to be held, it cant be overseen by a Trump lackey.
The Issues, or Lack Thereof
I can't find any substantive policy differences between Ronna and Harmeet, which is kind of hilarious — this race is entirely about “vibes.” RNC chair is a fundraising position, not a policy position, so I guess that makes sense, but it’s still funny to see the entire race boil down to “She’s a loser!” vs. “No she’s a loser!”
From what I can tell, the biggest difference between them is that Harmeet is higher IQ. She just seems sharper.
Ronna has one small scandal hanging over her head, concerning the fact that she used RNC funds for private plane trips, flowers, and other expenses like Lululemon. But honestly that’s pretty small beans. Harmeet uses this scandal as a club to hit Ronna with, but I don’t think anyone really cares. I guess it’s an example of the Washington swamp at work, grifting, which is what Harmeet says she wants to fix, but it’s hard to get worked up over. This is business as usual.
If anything I think this scandal will backfire on Harmeet. She’s used it as a chance to grandstand and promise that she’ll audit the RNC’s books and crack down on consultant grifting. While this is obviously a good thing, in theory, in practice the 168 people voting for her in this RNC election are beneficiaries of the entrenched consultant class. They don’t want the gravy train to end, so don’t be surprised if they don’t vote against auditing themselves. Harmeet is attacking the machine, so don’t be surprised if the machine slaps her down. On an internal committee listserv, Jeff Kent, a committee member from Washington, wrote that Ms. Dhillon “does not have the right to go on national television and defame the character of the R.N.C. members who have chosen not to support her.”
“I’m running against Conservative Inc.,” Dhillon said. “I’m running against a swamp of fat cat consultants who take the money of small-dollar and billionaire donors, and they get paid whether they win or lose.”
Overall, I think that Ronna has a slightly higher chance of winning, but it’s close. Normally here is where I would turn to prediction markets to see what political forecasters are pricing in, but the CFTC in all their wisdom have shut down PredictIt.
If I had to eyeball this race, I think it would look something like this:
It will all come down to the RNC conference on January 25th-27th, where all 168 voters will be in attendance.
Ronna has repeatedly rejected Harmeet’s calls for a debate, but there will be a candidate forum on the afternoon of Jan. 25 and 26, where each candidate will speak for an allotted amount of time. It all comes down to this forum. A spokesperson for Dhillon said that conducting the forum in private “sends a very bad signal to RNC donors and grassroots leaders that the current chair is too weak or afraid to debate her own record.”
So, it will all come down to this forum, which the public won’t be privy to. It’s a departure from the last contentious chairman’s race in 2011, when all candidates, including incumbent Chair Michael Steele, participated in a publicly aired debate.
The next leader of the RNC will be hand-picked behind closed doors by a group of wealthy megadonors.