It’s been a busy week for Ronna McDaniel, the embattled Republican National Committee chair, as she fends off various threats to her leadership. McDaniel, of course, came in for her fair share of finger pointing last month after the G.O.P.’s underwhelming midterms performance, dragged down in part by the plummeting stock of her close ally, Donald Trump. Nevertheless, she appears to have the inside track in the R.N.C. race, successfully swatting down former congressman and New York gubernatorial hopeful Lee Zeldin, who had been quietly talking to R.N.C. members and sizing up his chances for a coup. McDaniel also has the upper hand against Harmeet Dhillon, an R.N.C. member who recently declared that she would challenge her for the job. (A third challenge, from MyPillow C.E.O. Mike Lindell, is unanimously viewed as an absolute nonstarter.)
Support for McDaniel has ebbed since her election in 2017; a fourth term would make her the longest-serving party chair in a century. But with 104 members on her side, any mutiny will be difficult. “Say what you will about Ronna and the way she runs the R.N.C. (though no one criticizing her has any specific complaints), but she’s always maintained very close relationships with the 168 [voting members],” a G.O.P. insider told me.
Prior to him bowing out of the race, Zeldin had been making the case behind the scenes that he could lead the R.N.C. to victory, pointing to the four New York House seats he helped flip from blue to red in the midterms—“four seats that gave us the majority,” as a longtime conservative activist pointed out. (A party needs 218 seats to win the House; the Republicans, who were expected to gain a double-digit majority, won 221, technically within the Zeldin margin of error.) In his statement bowing out of the race, Zeldin sniped that McDaniel’s re-election was “pre-baked by design.” He continued: “[She] should not run for a 4th term… it’s time the G.O.P. elects new leadership! It’s time for fresh blood!”