Republican National Committee Needs New Leadership
When a party does not occupy the White House, that party is traditionally voiced by the two leaders in Congress – whether they represent the majority or the minority – and the chairperson of the Republican National Committee (RNC). They are most effective when operating as a team. That is not the case today.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy comes close to playing the traditional role as a Republican Party spokesperson. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell prefers to concentrate on the inside game – at which he is very good – rather than present Republican positions to the public. He tends to avoid the media.
Then there is Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairperson of the RNC. You may not have heard of her – and that is part of the problem. She has been the head of the RNC for almost seven years. The fact that the vast majority of Americans have no idea who she is – or who is the head the Republican Party’s most prominent national organization – says a lot about her leadership failure.
The RNC has a number of important responsibilities – getting out the vote, candidate services, fundraising, organizing debates and spreading the Republican gospel.
The Republican loss of the Congress in 2018 … the loss of the White House in 2020 … and the weak showing in 2022, a year that was to produce a red political tsunami … has cast into doubt the RNC’s effectiveness in getting out the vote in every election cycle since McDaniel assumed her post. I am torn between giving McDaniel a C-minus or an F-plus in terms of producing election victories. It may seem like a distinction without a difference, but it is the difference between a poor grade and an outright failing grade.
It is virtually impossible to empirically examine the effectiveness of candidate services but the number of complaints from unhappy candidates may be telling. In terms of fundraising, the RNC has kept pace with the DNC – or vice versa. That is not unmitigated good news for the RNC, since it is not the traditional situation. The RNC generally does significantly better than the DNC. After lagging behind, the RNC did outraise the DNC $17 million to $15 million in August of 2023. That earns McDaniel a C+ for fundraising.
In a previous commentary, I argued that the first Republican presidential debate of the season was poorly conceived and managed. I called out the RNC and the host FOX News as losers in the debate. The allotment of time and the arbitrariness of the rules – which were ignored by the candidates, anyway – produced a shouting match that consumed time from the presentations on critical issues.
The most egregious error was the requirement that debate participants sign a pledge to support the Republican candidate in the general election no matter who it is. That was a foreseeable blunder. The solicitation of a show-of-hands indicating if a candidate would support Trump even if convicted of federal crimes was a bobby trap that the candidates could not avoid. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy was a quick and eager “yes” – and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie a firm “no.”
Five candidates seemed to struggle with an answer, but eventually voted “yes” – that they would vote for Trump even if convicted. In the days following the debate, Democrats and their media allies used that question to slam the Republican candidates – especially Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. It is not supposed to be the job of the RNC to make Republican candidates look bad. I give McDaniel an F on managing debates.
Finally, the head of the RNC is supposed to be one of the major voices in the political firmament. McDaniel earns a D as the Party’s spokesperson. Her first problem is that she does not get out and about enough. She occasionally shows up on FOX, but I have never seen her on any of the other networks. Are they censoring her?
Even worse, McDaniel is not a very effective or persuasive communicator when she does appear in the media. I feel like I am getting nothing more than Republican boiler plate. She seems to be using most of her airtime defending Trump or echoing the Trump line. The head of the RNC is supposed to be neutral. Her main job is to sell the Republican platform and policies.
To say that McDaniel is not dynamic or charismatic is an understatement. There are different establishments in Washington, and McDaniel is a product of the Republican establishment – even though she was ostensibly picked by Trump to replace Reince Priebus. In retrospect, the GOP would have been better to have kept Priebus.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem was vying for the RNC chairmanship at one time. The Republican Party would have been better served if she had been elected to replace McDaniel. And Noem is not the only Republican that would be an improvement over McDaniel.
The RNC chairperson is elected by the national committeemen and committee women in each state. They recently gave McDaniel a rare fourth term as head of the GOP. As long as they a comfortable not shaking up the operation, the GOP may have to continue to suffer from mediocre and ineffective RNC leadership.
So, there ‘tis,