What is happening at the RNC and could Lara Trump become co-chair?

By STEVE PEOPLES and MICHELLE L. PRICE (Associated Press)

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump is calling for a shakeup at the highest levels of the Republican National Committee. And party leaders are taking it very seriously.

To be clear, this is not normal.

Trump has yet to secure the GOP’s presidential nomination and just last week, he and current Chair Ronna McDaniel privately agreed that no major changes would take place until after South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary. But that didn’t stop Trump from announcing Monday on social media that he wants McDaniel to be replaced by Michael Whatley, the North Carolina GOP chairman. The new co-chair, Trump said, should be his daughter-in-law Lara Trump.

McDaniel has said nothing will change at least until after South Carolina. And the RNC membership isn’t meeting until later this spring at the earliest to formalize any changes.

What is happening at the RNC and why does it matter? Here’s an explanation:

What is the RNC?

The Republican National Committee is the governing body of the national Republican Party and runs the GOP’s political machine. It’s focused above all on winning elections. The committee is made up of 168 voting members, including at least one man and woman from every state.

Day-to-day operations and strategic decisions are controlled by a chairperson based in the Washington headquarters.

The RNC chair is elected every two years by the RNC’s 168 members. But when a Republican president occupies the White House, the 168 effectively act as a rubber stamp for the president’s wishes given his or her role as the undisputed head of the party. It’s the same for Democrats.

That’s why, back in 2016, Donald Trump had the power to handpick Ronna McDaniel to lead the RNC after he entered the White House. McDaniel, the niece of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, previously led the Michigan state GOP and was viewed as popular among the party’s establishment and grassroots.

Trump’s choice was ratified by the RNC membership in January 2017, and McDaniel has led the committee ever since. In that position, she’s raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars, maintained and expanded GOP field offices and staffing in key states and communities across the country, and coordinated the presidential nomination process in 2020 and 2024.

But make no mistake, Trump — not McDaniel — has been the real leader of the Republican Party over the last eight years.

Why does Trump want to replace the RNC’s leadership?

Trump has for years had a hot-and-cold relationship with the RNC, but he has been under increasing pressure from leaders in the party’s “Make America Great Again” movement to break from establishment leaders like McDaniel.

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