Who Will Replace Ronna McDaniel as Leader of the R.N.C.? - The World News

Who Will Replace Ronna McDaniel as Leader of the R.N.C.?

The disclosure that Ronna McDaniel is planning to step down this month as the leader of the Republican National Committee has set off a new round of jockeying between two of the same men who battled for the co-chairman post last year.

As he did last year, Donald J. Trump, the Republican front-runner for the White House, looks likely to back Michael Whatley, an election-denying ally — this time, though, as Ms. McDaniel’s replacement.

But Mr. Whatley, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, was not successful last year. And while the former president wields broad influence over who leads the party, his power is not absolute. And Republican committee members may not be in lock step.

“It looks like a fight is breaking out for chair with conservatives lobbying for Drew McKissick (SC) to take over as interim chair,” Tyler Bowyer, a committee member from Arizona, wrote on X on Tuesday night.

It was Mr. McKissick who prevailed in the co-chairman contest last year, when Mr. Whatley, who was trailing in the vote, withdrew from the contest after the second ballot. Under the party’s rules, Mr. McKissick would become the committee’s interim chairman after Ms. McDaniel steps down and until her replacement is elected by the committee.

Mr. McKissick, the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, has in recent days expressed his appetite for the job directly to Mr. Trump, several people familiar with the situation said.

Yet as Mr. Trump marches toward securing the G.O.P. nomination, it is Mr. Whatley who is widely viewed as the heir apparent to Ms. McDaniel, according to several people familiar with the discussions.

“The nominee gets his way,” said Ed Broyhill, a committee member from Mr. Whatley’s state of North Carolina.

But Mr. McKissick has his fans.

“Certainly, he would be a top choice of mine,” Oscar Brock, a committee member from Tennessee, said on Wednesday. Mr. Brock, who opposed Ms. McDaniel’s re-election as the committee’s chairwoman last year, said Mr. McKissick’s interest in the post was apparent when the two spoke on Tuesday.

But even he acknowledged that Mr. Trump was getting closer to being able to call the shots.

If Mr. Trump becomes the presumptive nominee, he said, “it will probably eliminate a lot of competition.”

Robin Armstrong, a committee member from Texas, said on Thursday that he had reached out to Mr. McKissick to offer his support.

“I think he’s more of a natural fit,” he said, mentioning Mr. McKissick’s previous victory over Mr. Whatley for co-chairman. “I think it just makes sense. It would be a seamless transition.”

Mr. McKissick declined to comment, and Mr. Whatley did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did the Trump campaign or Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump who on Wednesday shared on social media an anonymously sourced Fox News story about how Mr. Trump is recommending Mr. Whatley for the job.

Mr. Whatley, the current general counsel for the Republican National Committee, has gained favor with the former president by embracing his “stop the steal” mantra. And in his leadership position with the North Carolina party, he represents a key state that Mr. Trump won in 2016 and 2020.

Mr. Broyhill said on Thursday that Mr. Whatley had returned the state party to electoral success and financial solvency after his federally indicted predecessor had left the organization in disarray. He said Mr. Whatley was in a strong position with Mr. Trump’s backing.

Ms. McDaniel is expected to step aside after South Carolina holds its Republican presidential primary on Feb. 24.

Bill Palatucci, a committee member from New Jersey who has been critical of Mr. Trump, did not support Ms. McDaniel’s re-election last year.

“I made it clear after the miserable results of the 2022 midterms that many of us were tired of losing and needed to do things differently,” he said in an email.

He acknowledged that Mr. Trump would most likely control the process of picking her replacement.

“What process?” he wrote in a follow-up message. “It’s always the prerogative of the presumptive nominee to run the party.”

Morton Blackwell, a longtime committee member from Virginia, similarly shrugged off the prospect of a heated competition.

“The vote’s going to be unanimous when the name comes down,” said Mr. Blackwell, who supported Mr. McKissick for party co-chairman last year and described him as having “many friends and a strong conservative background.”

Nevertheless, he said of Mr. McKissick: “He understands the dynamics of this thing.”

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