Asked if he thought McDaniel should step down, Steele responded, “She’s not winning elections. Shit, I got fired after getting the most seats we’ve ever gotten in almost 100 years. So, I don’t know how you justify it.”
Steele, the RNC’s first Black chair, presided over historic wins during the 2010 midterm election cycle, delivering the GOP a whopping 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate.
But Steele was gaffe-prone and a grandstander (according to a party that later snuggled up to Trump), and Republican leaders replaced him in 2011 with Reince Priebus, who went on to help Barack Obama win another term in 2012.
“I mean, sure, you may not have liked my style or the way I talked about stuff,” added Steele, “but damn, I know how to win campaigns, if that’s your standard.”
But it’s not the GOP standard anymore—a point Steele made perfectly clear.
McDaniel attached her star to Trump, and then she basically bought him.
“She has served well providing the cover that Trump has needed,” Steele explained, “paid his legal bills, paid personal bills for the Trump family out of RNC funds, which I’ve always found to be problematic.”
And now that McDaniel is just as much of a loser as Trump, he’s giving her cover.
“If you look at state party organizations, it’s the MAGA strain of Republicanism that’s become dominant,” Steele said. “And they’re willing to change the rules, they’re willing to ignore an insurrection, refer to it as just ‘political discourse.’ All of that stuff coming out of the national party is a reflection of what’s happening inside the party across the states.”
In other words, MAGA has a stranglehold on the party, and McDaniel’s staying power is simply a reflection of that fact.
“Ronna doesn’t go on national television and refer to an insurrection of our government as typical political discourse unless there’s a sentiment inside the party that supports that view,” Steele noted.
McDaniel is currently making a bid for a fourth term as party chair, and despite attracting some challengers amid discontent, she appears to have locked down enough votes already to ensure her reelection. Of the RNC’s 168 members, at least 101 have signed a letter stating their intent to back McDaniel yet again. Why, particularly with her wanting win/loss record? Because all the state party Trumpies love her.
“This has really been kind of member-driven,” said Michael Whatley, the chair of the North Carolina GOP, who signed on to the letter. “For me, it was not a close call. Every single time I called her, the answer was yes. … I’m not surprised that folks coalesced behind her or around her as quickly as they did.”
In short, Trump has his 30% base, the state party chairs are in his pocket, and so is the RNC chair because her job depends on it. In spite if all the hand-wringing and finger-pointing and even some loss of appeal, Trump is still better situated than anyone else in the GOP to win the 2024 nomination.
If the GOP state party chairs suddenly have misgivings and grow a spine, they could reconfigure their nominating rules to end the party’s winner-take-all approach to delegates and instead implement a more proportional approach like the Democratic Party uses. If that doesn’t happen, however, Trump is almost a shoo-in for the nomination. Trump’s 30% of loyalists will help him corral 100% of the delegates in state after state where he secures a plurality, while several other Republicans split the vote between them.
But short of state parties making changes that would hurt Trump’s chances, the nomination will continue to be his to lose. Trump is the GOP establishment now, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just hasn’t figured it out yet.
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Why did Democrats do so surprisingly well in the midterms? It turns out they ran really good campaigns, as strategist Josh Wolf tells us on this week’s episode of The Downballot. That means they defined their opponents aggressively, spent efficiently, and stayed the course despite endless second-guessing in the press. Wolf gives us an inside picture of how exactly these factors played out in the Arizona governor’s race, one of the most important Democratic wins of the year. He also shines a light on an unsexy but crucial aspect of every campaign: how to manage a multi-million budget for an enterprise designed to spend down to zero by Election Day.