Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is expected to leave her job this spring after former president Donald Trump had increasingly grown critical of her leadership, according to people familiar with the matter.
The decision came as she visited Mar-a-Lago and met with Trump on Monday, but the situation remained fluid, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal private discussions.
The news of her departure was first reported by the New York Times, which reported it was likely to occur after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24. McDaniel, who is in her fourth term as chair of the RNC, was expected to serve until 2025 but has considered leaving for months. Her relationship with Trump soured over the Republican primary debates featuring his challengers this past fall, according to the people familiar with the discussions. Trump wanted her to cancel them and she declined.
Trump then received a drumbeat of criticism from conservative activists and donors — along with his own advisers — about McDaniel.
Trump’s campaign has increasingly grown frustrated with McDaniel’s leadership. They have worried over what they view as the RNC’s lackluster fundraising, as well as the more muscular role they hoped the committee could play in a general election matchup with President Biden. The party had about half as much money as the DNC at the end of December.
Trump also has repeatedly told advisers that McDaniel was not doing enough on “election integrity,” according to people who heard his comments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal discussions.
But in private, he has been nice to her, the people familiar with the meetings say, and has not forcefully pushed for her ouster even as some of her critics have called for it. The pair met for over two hours on Monday.
About two weeks ago, Trump began telling people he wanted to make a change at the RNC, these people said. “Is it time for Ronna McDaniel to step aside?” a Newsmax reporter asked Trump in a televised interview Monday.
“I think she knows that, I think she understands that,” Trump responded.
Trump is weighing other candidates for the job and has focused on Michael Whatley, the North Carolina GOP chairman who has supported Trump’s false claims of election fraud, as a favorite, two people familiar with his comments said. McDaniel has promised a lengthy and smooth transition, they said.
“Nothing has changed,” RNC spokesman Keith Schipper said Tuesday night. “This will be decided after South Carolina.”
Mike Reed, the RNC’s chief of staff, announced Tuesday that he planned to step down from his role at the committee as well. Reed had privately long told confidants that he planned to leave after the RNC’s winter meeting this past weekend in Las Vegas, and had a job lined up since the fall.
McDaniel ran for a fourth term as RNC chair against the advice of some leading Republicans and advisers.
“Many people were concerned about the RNC’s ability to fundraise heading into the chair election last year and unfortunately we’re seeing a fruition of those concerns. I hope that we can come to the determination of a nominee sooner than later to help resolve the financial disparity that is necessary to win the presidency,” Tyler Bowyer, an RNC member from Arizona who has been a frequent McDaniel critic, said last week.
Her defenders say McDaniel held the party together during seven difficult years and that Trump was to blame for much of the party’s struggles, not McDaniel.
McDaniel — the niece of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) who stopped using the Romney name after the 2016 election — comes from a storied family in Republican politics and was viewed as a bridge between Trump and the party’s more establishment, corporate class. She was well liked by some of the party’s top donors, including hotelier Steve Wynn.
Ashley Parker and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.