“It’s been really hard,” Ronna McDaniel told me Thursday, her eyes welling up.
Our hour-long Monitor Breakfast with the chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) had just ended, and I asked her how her kids were doing. For many Americans, seeing loved ones struggle during the pandemic has been a monumental challenge, and for Chairwoman McDaniel, it’s been no different.
Moments before, she had fielded a question from a German reporter, and mentioned how much her 16-year-old son hated having to wear a mask at school. “But it’s better than not being in school,” Ms. McDaniel said hopefully.
The RNC chair, in fact, has much cause for optimism, as polls show Republicans on track to take control of the House and possibly the Senate in next year’s midterm elections. Her role in that enterprise is key, raising money and supporting the efforts of Republicans around the country.
Like all working parents, Ms. McDaniel is juggling a lot: a demanding job, the needs of her family, and a controversial former president who will play an outsize role in the midterms – and possibly run again for his old office.
Back in 2016, Ms. McDaniel was tapped by then-President-elect Donald Trump to lead the RNC, and they remain allies. At our breakfast, she refused to discuss their private communications or even how often they talk. But she made clear that she sees his role in the GOP as essential.
“If he left the party, Republicans would lose,” she told us, stressing how much former President Trump did to build the party’s base. That was the lead of my report on the breakfast.
I also couldn’t resist mentioning that Ms. McDaniel is a Romney. Her grandfather was former Michigan Gov. George Romney, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is her uncle. The senior Romney, in fact, was the third person ever to appear at a Monitor Breakfast, on Jan. 13, 1967. His last appearance was with son Mitt in 1994.
But Ms. McDaniel really perked up when I mentioned the women in her family who had also run for office, albeit unsuccessfully – grandmother Lenore Romney, and her mother, Ronna Romney. In this family, the Republican tradition runs deep.
The C-SPAN video of our breakfast can be viewed here.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.