RNC chair Ronna McDaniel wins re-election despite last-minute shakeup from Ron DeSantis

 January 27, 2023

Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R) shook up the Republican National Committee leadership election with a surprise last-minute endorsement of challenger Harmeet Dhillon, but the governor's call for "new blood" fell short in the end. 

The man widely seen as Donald Trump's top primary threat failed to oust incumbent chair Ronna McDaniel, who won re-election to a fourth term at a closed-door meeting Friday in spite of a backlash from the GOP base.

DeSantis endorsement falls short

In an interview with Charlie Kirk a day earlier, DeSantis praised Dhillon and bashed the GOP's lackluster track record under the Trump-appointed McDaniel, who has led the party through a series of disappointing election cycles.

“I think we need a change, I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC, I like what Harmeet Dhillon said about getting the RNC out of D.C.,” DeSantis said.

“I do think we need some fresh thinking."

DeSantis, whose landslide re-election last year led many a political pundit to declare him the future of the GOP, blamed the current party leadership for a failure to capitalize on a political climate "tailor-made" for a so-called red wave "that didn't happen."

Shot across the bow

Of course, the governor is all too aware that a "red wave" did happen in Florida, a contrast he will want to emphasize in the likely event that he jumps into the presidential race.

DeSantis hasn't declared whether he plans to challenge Trump in 2024, but he appeared to send a shot across the bow by coming out against McDaniel, an unpopular incumbent who, while not endorsed by Trump, wasn't opposed by him, either.

McDaniel, who had touted the support of a majority of the RNC's 168 members heading into the contentious election, was vindicated when she secured 111 of their votes. Trump applauded McDaniel on her "BIG WIN."

"Now we have to STOP THE DEMOCRATS FROM CHEATING IN ELECTIONS!" Trump wrote in a Truth Social Post.

"Tough conversations"

Perhaps wary of choosing a horse in the 2024 primary, Dhillon, a conservative lawyer who has represented Trump, had demurred when asked about DeSantis' kind words Thursday, saying she didn't consider them an endorsement.

After falling short with 51 votes -- MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell also ran -- Dhillon said the leadership battle was a fight worth having because of the "tough conversations" it provoked.

"After a hard-fought effort, we unfortunately came up short," Dhillon said in a statement. 

"However, the RNC 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."

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