Ronna McDaniel has served three terms as chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, but a rising conservative figure believes it’s time for new leadership.
Harmeet Dhillon, a civil rights attorney and national committeewoman for the RNC, is challenging McDaniel after a string of GOP losses in the 2020 presidential election and 2022 midterm elections.
“I think we really need to focus on our party where we’re all working in the party together. This is not personal. I have no personal issue with Ronna,” Dhillon tells Fox Digital.
McDaniel would become the one of the longest serving RNC chairs in over 100 years if she were elected to a fourth term. Since her announcement, roughly 73% of GOP voters want the RNC to move on from McDaniel, according to a December poll by the Convention of States Action.
After losing the White House and missing what some Republicans predicted would be a “red wave” in the midterms, a chorus of conservative voters are asking what went wrong within the RNC.
“We don’t have the White House now, we don’t have the presidency. So, you know, we are effectively the leaders of the party,” said Dhillon. “If we’re not clearly articulating what our message is, why voters should vote for us, then we are losing. And in fact, we are always playing catch up with the Democrats.”
The RNC raised over $327 million and spent about $391 million in the 2021-2022 election cycle.
Despite calls for changes in leadership at the RNC, McDaniel says she has instituted several changes that has enhanced the party’s outreach.
“I think I have provided a lot of change under my leadership,” McDaniel told Fox Business’ Stuart Varney in December. “I’m always open to new ideas and ways to move forward.”
Republicans spent nearly twice as much money as Democrats on fundraising efforts during the 2022 midterm elections, according to Open Secrets. However, Democrats outspent the GOP by more than $100 million in media while Republicans spent $93.4 million on campaign strategy and communications consulting.
“We pay hundreds of thousands of dollars this year to messaging consultants who are not providing good messaging,” said Dhillon. “We have our small dollar donor program, which I think is sometimes…quite abusive to our donors. They’re kind of harassing messages. I think we need to really change our tone and welcome people back into the party.”
Critics of McDaniel argue November’s midterm losses and the current fight over who will lead the RNC reveal deeper issues about the ambitions of the party’s leadership.
“I trust most of the members of the RNC to vote not in their self-interest, but rather in the interest of the party,” said Dhillon. “Ronna has a large staff at the RNC that she’s using in this campaign. I think that’s somewhat questionable, but she is doing that.”
The candidacy of Dhillon and McDaniel is problematic for former President Trump. Dhillon played a key role in the former president’s legal feuds with the January 6th committee. However, Trump hand-picked McDaniel to be his RNC chair in 2017. Trump says that he likes both candidates and is declining to endorse either.
“I don’t think anybody can doubt my integrity,” Dhillon said about whether her relationship with the former president would impact her decisions as RNC chair — which has bylaws that require an even playing field in the 2024 presidential primary.
Dhillon denies that she is leaning on her relationship with Trump trying to win the chair. She says she plans to better deliver the party’s message on social issues like abortion and not rely heavily on consultants while boosting small dollar donations.
While McDaniel has sought to claim success in broadening the party’s appeal to minority voters, Dhillon says the RNC chairwoman must bare responsibility for Republicans’ failure to win the Senate and have an even larger House Majority.
“Life is unfair in many ways. However, when you have successive losses, be it and a sports team or being in a corporation or being as a leader of the party too, people typically move on.”