GOP chair: Under Trump, ‘we’ve become a working-class party’

Michael Bonfigli/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, speaks at the St. Regis Hotel on Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington.

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When it comes to former President Donald Trump, Ronna McDaniel is adamant about one thing: “If he left the party, Republicans would lose.”

“He has built our party,” the Republican National Committee chair told reporters at a breakfast Thursday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “He has added a new base. We’ve become a working-class party. I saw it in my home state of Michigan.”

Why We Wrote This

Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee, joined the Monitor Breakfast to talk about the former president, violence in politics, and the 2022 elections.

Chairwoman McDaniel’s good working relationship with Mr. Trump is well documented. It goes back to 2016, when she was instrumental in helping him unexpectedly win Michigan – a key electoral battleground – as state party chair. Soon, Mr. Trump recommended her as chair of the Republican National Committee, ensuring her election by party officials in early 2017, and every two years since. 

Ms. McDaniel acknowledges that Joe Biden is the president, despite Mr. Trump’s continued resistance to the idea. But she hedges on whether his election was legitimate, despite the certification of results in the states and by Congress on Jan. 6.

“Painfully, Joe Biden won the election,” she said. “I mean, he’s the president, of course. It’s very painful to watch. I think there were lots of problems with the election. And I think it needs to be looked at. But yeah, he’s the president.” 

When it comes to former President Donald Trump, Ronna McDaniel is adamant about one thing: “If he left the party, Republicans would lose.”

“He has built our party,” the Republican National Committee chair told reporters at a breakfast Thursday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “He has added a new base. We’ve become a working-class party. I saw it in my home state of Michigan.”

That former President Trump’s status as a Republican is even an issue might seem odd, as he appears to be seriously considering another run for the Oval Office in 2024 as a Republican. But the release of a new book this week by Jonathan Karl of ABC News has revived discussion of Mr. Trump’s party loyalty and his reaction to losing reelection.  

Why We Wrote This

Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee, joined the Monitor Breakfast to talk about the former president, violence in politics, and the 2022 elections.

Mr. Karl wrote that on his final day in office, Mr. Trump told Chairwoman McDaniel that he was leaving the GOP and creating his own party. In response, Republican leaders threatened to stop paying the legal bills incurred during post-election challenges and open up access to an email list of 40 million Trump supporters, according to Mr. Karl’s sources. 

“This is false,” Ms. McDaniel said Thursday, declining to elaborate further. 

Despite the reported clash, Ms. McDaniel’s good working relationship with Mr. Trump is well-documented. It goes back to 2016, when she was instrumental in helping him unexpectedly win Michigan – a key electoral battleground – as state party chair.

Soon, President-elect Trump recommended her as chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), ensuring her election by party officials in early 2017, and every two years since. 

Ms. McDaniel acknowledges that Joe Biden is the president, despite Mr. Trump’s continued resistance to the idea. But she hedges on whether his election was legitimate, despite the certification of results in the states and by Congress on Jan. 6.

“Painfully, Joe Biden won the election,” she said. “I mean, he’s the president, of course. It’s very painful to watch. I think there were lots of problems with the election. And I think it needs to be looked at. But yeah, he’s the president.” 

Following are more excerpts from the Monitor Breakfast with Ms. McDaniel, lightly edited for clarity. 

Do you still consider Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney a Republican, following her state party’s vote last weekend to no longer recognize her as a party member? She has become a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, lost her GOP leadership position in Congress, and faces a vigorous primary challenge for her House seat next year. 

Obviously, she’s still a Republican. But I get from a state party standpoint, when you have a congressperson or a senator who’s not supporting your state party, who is not talking about electing Republicans up and down the ballot. 

The state party is the most grassroots body that a state has. These are people who are running in their district committee and they’re going to their county convention and they’re getting on their state committee and they really represent where the party is in their state. So that was their choice to do that. And then the voters will make a choice in the primary in Wyoming. 

Do you agree with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, that the GOP has to move beyond Mr. Trump? 

Every Republican right now should be talking about 2022, and that’s where I am as the Republican Party chair. I’m not talking about anything else other than what Biden is doing to destroy our country: high gas prices, an open border, an opioid crisis. We just saw a hundred thousand people died last year [from drug overdoses]. That correlates with a massive influx of opioids coming across our border. 

Fellow Michigander Fred Upton, a Republican congressman, received a death threat over his vote for President Biden’s infrastructure bill. This week, GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was censured and removed from his House committees over a violent video targeting a female member of Congress and Mr. Biden. What can be done to restore a sense of comity in American politics? 

And there was [California Democratic Rep.] Maxine Waters saying, if you see them form a crowd, get in their face. And there were many instances of Democrats saying things like that who, by the way, didn’t get censured. Then there’s a bomb in front of the RNC, and the [Democratic National Committee], too, so I’m very against it.

Social media is a big part of it. I think, you know, it’s hard for anybody. I don’t know the answer to that. I wish I did. It’s hard to be on social media for anybody. Anybody who looks at their comments is probably nicer to the Democrats on Twitter than Republicans. 

It’s nasty. I’ve had death threats. We’ve had to have security. I don’t always publicize that, but we’ve all had moments right now in this public sphere. 

When did you get death threats? 

I turned it over to the FBI, so I’m not going to share it. But it was a pretty graphic image sent to my home address, in the mail. I think the person was unwell, because he put his address on it. It was pretty early on when I started [as RNC chair.]

There are several Republican candidates for Senate – Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Eric Greitens in Missouri – contending with serious accusations of violence against women. Are you concerned that that hurts the party’s brand?

Well, obviously, you take domestic violence very seriously, so if there were criminal charges or if that got pursued, we would look at that very seriously. But it’s going to be up to the voters to decide, and [the candidates] have to make their case and tell their story.

How do you see Mr. Trump’s role in next year’s midterm elections? 

I’ve said all along, Trump’s going to be critical in turning out voters in the midterms, and he’s a huge factor in our party. If you look at his popularity, if you look at the polls, they’re going to be looking to him. And there’s going to be other leaders in our party, too, that are going to help. But it’s going to come down to the candidate connecting with the voter on the issues that matter to them. That’s ultimately what it’s going to be. And we have great issues to run on right now.

Any chance you’ll jump into the Michigan governor’s race next year? After all, you come from a storied political family: Grandfather George Romney was governor of Michigan and Uncle Mitt Romney is a senator from Utah. Both your mother, Ronna Romney, and grandmother Lenore Romney also ran for office. 

There is zero chance I will be jumping into the Michigan governor’s race.

The C-SPAN video of the breakfast can be viewed here.

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