Ronna McDaniel’s speculated resignation as chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) amid former President Trump’s vocal dissatisfaction with the party apparatus is the latest sign that the former president is reshaping the GOP for years to come.
McDaniel has long been seen as a strong ally of Trump, but The New York Times reported she is now expected to resign in part because the former president didn’t think the RNC was doing enough to help him.
A potential exit would further cement Trump’s grip on the party. The former president urged supporters to tank a bipartisan Senate border deal and his rival Nikki Haley lost in a Nevada primary where his name hadn’t even appeared on the ballot.
“Donald Trump’s had a very good week. He was able to kill the border bill, Haley lost to none of the above in Nevada, and he clearly has complete control of the Republican Party,” said Brian Seitchik, who served as the RNC’s Trump Victory western regional political director in 2020, adding Trump “gets what he wants.”
Trump has been the dominant figure in the GOP for nearly a decade, but his influence over the party — even as a candidate — has appeared stronger than ever as he marches toward clinching the nomination.
The former president urged Republicans against supporting a bipartisan border security deal, and his allies in the House and Senate lined up to tank its chances of passage.
Trump enjoyed a nearly 30-point win in the Iowa GOP caucuses and bested Haley in New Hampshire by double digits. In Nevada, his only presidential rival — Haley — placed in second behind a “none of these candidates” option on the primary ballot. It was an embarrassing blow for the former U.N. ambassador and added more wind to Trump’s sails ahead of the Nevada caucus.
Once skeptical members of Congress have in recent weeks fallen in line and endorsed Trump’s 2024 bid, while others openly jockey for the chance to be his running mate. McDaniel has already described the former president as the “eventual nominee,” much to the objection of the Haley campaign.
Trump is now expected to back a loyalist in the race to serve as the next RNC chair, with North Carolina GOP chair Michael Watley — who has echoed Trump’s false claims of election fraud — reportedly among the front-runners.
RNC spokesman Keith Schipper pushed back against The Times’s reporting, writing in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Nothing has changed. This will be decided after South Carolina.”
RNC committee members also received a statement on Wednesday that no changes would be decided upon within the organization until after South Carolina, according to Iowa Republican National Committeewoman Tamara Scott.
“I believe he knows that he has no greater ally than Ronna McDaniel,” Scott said.
The Trump campaign also demurred. Senior adviser Jason Miller in a statement referred to a Trump post on Truth Social in which he said he would share “recommendations for RNC Growth” after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24.
Though Republicans say it’s not uncommon for leadership to change once the party reaches their eventual GOP presidential candidate, some say the irony won’t be lost on them if McDaniel decides to step down.
“Once there’s a presumptive nominee, it’s typical that the winner takes over the organization. Whether you formally change out the chair of the organization is neither here nor there. You’re going to install new staff, install some type of new leadership and fundraising apparatus. To me that’s pretty typical,” said Bill Palatucci, an RNC committee member from New Jersey who had called for a leadership change after the 2022 midterms.
“This situation is just funny because Ronna’s been kissing his ass for four years, and the Republican Party has done so poorly since 2018 that Trump needs a fall guy, and it appears to be Ronna,” Palatucci added.
One RNC committee member who requested anonymity to speak candidly said they would support whatever Trump wanted to do, but they defended McDaniel from some of the criticism she’s faced while serving as chair.
“I think that Ronna gets a lot of — I’m not talking about the president because I think he supports her and what she’s done — but I think she gets a lot of unfair criticism from some of the membership at the RNC,” the committee member said.
“There’s been a lot of yack about the finances, but if you look at past history, when we’ve had Democrats control the White House and you had a competitive Republican presidential field where there’s a lot of candidates running for president, by and large, a lot of those donors don’t feel compelled to give the RNC, they’re going to give to those candidates,” they added.
The committee member predicted “fundraising will take off like a rocket” once the GOP presidential nominee gets chosen.
A second RNC committee member said they would support whatever McDaniel decided and pushed back against the idea that recent events have underscored Trump’s hold on the party.
“I think they’re all stand-alones in their own right,” the committee member said, calling the Senate border bill “ridiculous.”
Palatucci, who has at times been a vocal critic of Trump, credited the RNC under McDaniel with implementing election integrity efforts, staffing infrastructure in key states and training programs for candidates.
He blamed poor messaging and poor candidates for the party’s recent struggles, citing Trump-backed Senate and gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona who lost their races in the midterms.
“To me that’s the bigger problem and a cosmetic change at the top will have no effect on that,” he said.
McDaniel has been RNC chair since Trump arrived in the White House in 2017. She has been reelected to the position every two years since, including in 2023 despite facing multiple challengers frustrated with the party’s underwhelming midterm performance and its finances.
Trump declined to explicitly back McDaniel or a challenger during the 2023 leadership race.
There were simmering tensions between Trump and McDaniel in recent months as the former president grew frustrated that the RNC continued to hold debates despite his sizable polling lead in the primary race. The RNC’s bylaws require that the organization remain neutral until there is a presumptive nominee.
To circumvent those rules, Trump allies at the RNC planned to vote on a resolution declaring him the presumptive nominee, which would give his campaign access to additional data and fundraising tools. But the effort was scrapped after backlash from some committee members.
The RNC has also sought to align itself with some of Trump’s priorities, including “election integrity” concerns as Trump has sought to spread baseless claims about the 2020 election. The RNC is working on 77 different lawsuits even as some Republicans have urged Trump to focus on the future instead.
Haley on Wednesday highlighted the friction at the RNC as one part of the larger discord among Republicans, placing the blame squarely on the former president.
“Republicans keep doing the same thing and getting the same result: chaos. That’s the definition of insanity,” Haley wrote on X, citing the RNC drama, the inability of House Republicans to pass any bills and a court ruling against Trump.
“A vote for Trump is a vote for more chaos,” Haley wrote.