Signs and Portents

Trump is still in the GOP driver's seat.

Source: The White House

Not that I ever make too much out of who heads the RNC (or the DNC, for that matter), it is possible to get some insights as to look to them to see what factions are dominant at the moment. And the re-election of Ronna (don’t call me “Romney”)* McDaniel is a sign that there is not a major anti-Trump/pro-DeSantis insurgency in the GOP. As CNN reports: RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel elected to fourth consecutive term.

The vote was conducted by secret ballot and McDaniel needed a majority of the members casting ballots to win. After just one round of voting, the parliamentarian announced that McDaniel had received 111 of the 167 votes cast. Dhillon received 51 votes and four ballots were cast for MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a 2020 election denier and ardent Trump backer.

While USAT is likely correct is calling this “the most contentious RNC race in two decades,” I can’t help but note that winning 66.47% of the vote on the first ballot is a pretty strong win and so I am not sure what metric of contentiousness is being deployed (and I am not inclined to do a bunch of research on RNC election to try and parse it out–but even a trip to Wikipedia suggests that 2011 was more contentious and that was just over a decade ago).

Also: Wikipedia tells me the Reince Priebus’** three consecutive terms was a record, meaning McDaniel’s four terms is now the most. (It is just oh so very, very contentious in the GOP these days!).

While it is almost certainly good for the country that Lindell was nowhere near getting this job, I can’t help but lament the loss of comedic value.***

I think that despite a lot of wish casting in reporting (e.g., Reuters: ‘Trump fatigue’ in New Hampshire complicates 2024 White House bid), I can’t help but feel like we have been here before. The 2016 nominating campaign, and even general election campaign, was full of skepticism about Trump’s chances.****

And stuff like this from USAT feeds that same “Trump fatigue” narrative:

In a survey of all 168 RNC members, The New York Times reported, “just four offered an unabashed endorsement of Mr. Trump’s 2024 campaign. Twenty said the former president should not be the party’s nominee. An additional 35 said they would like to see a big primary field or declined to state their position on Mr. Trump. The remainder did not respond to messages.”

But let’s not forget that McDaniel was Trump’s choice to win this slot and that DeSantis had at least made noise about Dillon:

Trump’s likely rival in the 2024 contest for the White House, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, weighed in on the race in an interview that posted Thursday, telling Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, a conservative web show host, that it was time for “some new blood in the RNC.” But the GOP governor stopped short of offering a formal endorsement of Dhillon.

If there was a truly serious move within the party elites to move on from Trump, McDaniel would have likely been a casualty. Instead, she won a “contentious” vote by basically beating her rival 2:1.

The bottom line is that it is hard for an American political party to quit its leader when the leader has the title “president”–even if there is clear evidence that he is not a major electoral force, what with all the losing.*****

It would likely be in the GOP’s interest to move on from Trump, but at the moment I don’t see the evidence that that is the likely outcome in 2024.

Fundamentally my point is as follows. There is an understandable desire in some segments of American society, including within the GOP, to move on from Trump. But the reality is that the headlines can assert fatigue and surveys of RNC members can beget an indication of a desire for new blood all day long, the reality remains that all actually signs point to the party (mostly importantly the nominating body of the party i.e., the primary voters) remaining behind Trump.

I mean, even as DeSantis makes noise in America’s most prominent peninsula, even this “contentious” RNC race was simple a contest between three flavors of pro-Trump. After all, Dhillon was one of his attorneys and Lindell has been nothing but Trumpy. So it isn’t as if there was some true DeSantis candidate in the race.

I am not sure that Trump’s renomination is a fait accompli but I am saying that there is little evidence to date to suggest that his pathway to that goal isn’t mostly clear. Certainly this RNC chair election does not suggest his position is tenuous. And it certainly was not as dramatic as the coverage so desperately wants it to be.

For example:

To recap: McDaniel won a fourth term on the first ballot by a 2:1 margin. But it was “very messy” and “divisive” requiring the “quell[ing]” of a “revolt” in a “fractured” and “bitter[ly] divide[d]” party wherein all three candidates (or two of whom could be considered serious) were all from the Trump wing of the party.

But, I get it: “McDaniel Wins Divisive Victory in Record Fourth Term as RNC Chair” is not a very sexy headline.

*That parenthetical may seem like cheap snark, but really it is noteworthy that she stopped using her middle name that highlighted he relationship with Mitt Romney as part of her public brand some time ago to appeal to Donald Trump. This is a very outward symbol of where the party currently is.

**It will never not be funny to me that if you take out the vowels from Reince Priebus’ name, the leftover letters spell out RNC PR BS. It is like an easter egg from a TV show for obsessive Redditors to find.

***I mean, we don’t need anyone with his views to be elevated to such a position to further convince people of lies and conspiracy theories. For while I will admit that part of me wonders if turning up the crazy might wake some people up, the reality seems to be the opposite.

****Including, I will admit, myself. But at this stage I need more evidence that people are truly tired of him before I accept that it is really the case.

*****Lost the popular vote in 2016. Lost seats in 2018. Lost the popular vote and the electoral vote in 2020. And the party under-performed in 2022. So, you know, losing.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    And the re-election of Ronna (don’t call me “Romney”)* McDaniel is a sign that there is not a major anti-Trump/pro-DeSantis insurgency in the GOP.

    McDaniel’s re-election has nothing to do with either Trump or DeSantis. McDaniel is WinRed’s person and all the Republican organizers skimming money off of WinRed’s operations don’t want someone at the RNC who may rock that particular boat.

  2. CSK says:

    Perhaps “portents” rather than “portends” in the title.

  3. @CSK: Dammit.


  4. Cheryl Rofer says:

    I too am disappointed not to see Mike Lindell as Chair of the Republican Party.

  5. Scott says:

    Nice B5 reference even if unintentional. Encroaching evil and doom. And DeSantis does have a passing resemblance to Mr. Morden.

  6. CSK says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    Well, he only got 4 votes out of 167. On the other hand, 30% (a plurality) of GOP voters wanted him
    to be the chair.

  7. Not the IT Dept. says:

    If that photo was taken while Trump was in the WH (as the photo credit would indicate) – wow, has DeSantis aged a lot since then!

  8. Mimai says:

    So this is a manufactured “Republicans in disarray” story? With broad coverage too.

  9. Michael Cain says:

    The media’s analysis of politics appears to have been reduced to the “horse race” story line, and nothing else.

  10. al Ameda says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I too am disappointed not to see Mike Lindell as Chair of the Republican Party.


    Well, he only got 4 votes out of 167. On the other hand, 30% (a plurality) of GOP voters wanted him to be the chair.

    Honestly, I was hoping for a Kyle Rittenhouse write-in.
    Also, I was somewhat disappointed that Mike Lindell got only 4 votes.

  11. CSK says:

    @al Ameda:
    I think the vast majority of the RNC knows that Lindell is a jibbering lunatic.

  12. @Scott: I cannot hear that phrase without thinking of B5. And too true about Mr. Morden.

  13. @Mimai: I think there is real disarray in the House (and maybe even between the House Rs and Senate Rs) and that there is potential disarray if DeSantis is truly willing to fight Trump for the nomination. But I really do not see this RNC story as evidence of serious dysfunction.

  14. steve says:

    I think some Republicans might be tired of him but he has a solid core. Also, he is the best at hating liberals which is what is valued most by Republicans, even those tired of him. He will be the nominee and I wish people would take it seriously.


  15. Mimai says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I agree 100%. This RNC story is not an indicator of “Republicans in disarray.” And yet many media outlets reported it as such.

  16. Kathy says:

    @al Ameda:

    Also, I was somewhat disappointed that Mike Lindell got only 4 votes.

    That’s four more votes than other leading loony pillow pitchmen.

  17. JohnSF says:


    DeSantis does have a passing resemblance to Mr. Morden.

    “I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?”
    Best TV-SF line ever.
    Vir Cotto: you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
    His only rivals IMHO being Susan Ivanova and Elim Garak.

  18. @JohnSF: A glorious scene. And such a great character.

  19. James Joyner says:

    @Scott: Oh, definitely not unintentional.