Political families are a time-honored American tradition. Start with the Adamses, then fast forward to the Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Bushes. But today, none are more relevant – or conflicted – than the Romneys.
In one corner is Ronna (Romney) McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, and in the other, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, her uncle. Both are Republicans, but they do not see eye-to-eye on the most consequential political question of the day, the presidency of Donald Trump and the impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine.
When asked if she’s tried to broker a truce in the Trump-Romney war of words, Ms. McDaniel essentially said no.
“I’ve said these are two grown men, very capable,” the RNC chair told reporters Thursday at a Monitor Breakfast. “They can work out their differences.”
Senator Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee for president, has said Mr. Trump’s call for China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son was “wrong and appalling.” Mr. Trump returned fired, calling Mr. Romney “a pompous [expletive].”
At the breakfast, Ms. McDaniel took the conflict in stride, noting that many families are divided over Mr. Trump.
“I feel for Kellyanne sometimes – the family stuff’s tough,” Ms. McDaniel said. She was referring to senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, whose husband, George Conway, is a “never Trump” Republican with a big Twitter following.
With Mr. Trump heading toward likely impeachment, and then a trial in the Senate, Mr. Romney may soon be sitting in judgment of the president. As of now, few Senate Republicans are expected to go against Mr. Trump, but all eyes are on the Utah senator to see how aggressive he gets.
According to Ms. McDaniel, Mr. Trump understands her dilemma. “There have been times where the president has said, ‘I’m sorry you have to deal with this,’” she says.
After that one “out there” Trump-Romney exchange, Ms. McDaniel says, the president called her at 10:30 at night, and asked her how she was doing. “And then the next day, there was a tweet, ‘Ronna McDaniel’s the best chair of the RNC we’ve ever had,” she says, laughing.
Is it safe to say that she and her uncle won’t be seeing each other at Thanksgiving? Ms. McDaniel, who lives in Michigan, says she and Uncle Mitt have never spent the holiday together – but not for a bad reason. They’re with their respective, large families.
And, Ms. McDaniel makes clear, political differences are part of being a Romney. She says she used to have disagreements with her grandfather, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, who “had very strong opinions” that would play out at family gatherings.
“It’s not as upsetting probably for us as maybe it is for people outside of us to have a disagreement and still be family,” Ms. McDaniel says.
Following are other highlights from the Monitor Breakfast with Ms. McDaniel, lightly edited:
On the impact of the House impeachment inquiry on RNC fundraising:
“Within the first, I think, 24 hours of the impeachment [inquiry] being announced, we raised $5 million online. And the first day of the impeachment hearings, we raised $3 million online. So there is an absolute influx of small dollar donations… The investment has been as strong as ever, which shows that this is partisan. ”
“We’ve had a huge fundraising advantage over the DNC this year. And you also have a Democrat field aggressively fighting to win a nomination, sucking those resources into their presidential campaigns, which gives us a distinct advantage to be on the ground early right now.”
On takeaways from the Democratic presidential primary debate the night before:
“I was surprised that more of them didn’t go after [Pete] Buttigieg, with him surging in the polls. They do seem to be very gloves off on him right now.”
“The field has still continued, in my opinion, to lurch further left. You saw Elizabeth Warren promoting a wealth tax. That would be incredibly catastrophic for our country. How are you going to assess people’s wealth every year? Are you going to create a new organization? I don’t think she’s really fleshed that out.”
“I thought Joe Biden struggled with some questions, continually to fumble, and that some of his answers were troublesome … in the delivery. He really struggles to finish a response.”
“I imagine him next to the president if he ends up being the nominee. And I just think the president is going to come at him.”
On the challenge of electing more Republican women to office:
“We’re half the electorate. We don’t all think alike. And it’s not all the same reasons, but some of the obstacles I ran into [as Michigan GOP chair] with women candidates as I was recruiting them is family-life balance, fundraising.”
“As Michigan chair, fundraising was a challenge for me. Coming from being a stay-at-home mom, not being in the business community, not being on the golf course, to suddenly going into boardrooms and asking for significant amounts of money and oftentimes having the door shut in my face because I wasn’t part of that community.”
“[But] I still had the passion and the ability to do what I needed to do.”