Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told party officials Wednesday that she’s considered stepping down from her post to challenge Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2022.
McDaniel’s remarks came during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday with RNC members in Dallas, where she was giving an after-action report on the 2020 election. At one point, McDaniel expressed frustration about Whitmer, her home-state governor, saying the first-term Democrat had severely mishandled the coronavirus pandemic. McDaniel grew emotional as she described how her two children, who are in the public-school system, had been unable to return to in-person learning.
According to two people familiar with her comments, McDaniel also told the roughly 140 members in attendance that she’d given thought in recent months to running against Whitmer in next year’s midterm elections.
How serious McDaniel is about running for governor is unclear. Several people familiar with her remarks say that, while she has given consideration to waging a 2022 campaign, she was speaking more out of frustration on Wednesday.
RNC chief of staff Richard Walters said in a statement: “Gov. Whitmer’s dismal record of leadership has done lasting harm to Michigan families. Michigan would be vastly better off with a change in leadership, but the chairwoman has no desire to do anything else other than lead the Republican Party to victory in 2022 by taking back the House and Senate.”
The 48-year-old McDaniel has deep family roots in Michigan politics. Her grandfather, George Romney, served as Michigan governor for three terms, and her grandmother, Lenore, waged an unsuccessful 1970 Senate bid. Her mother, Ronna, waged unsuccessful 1994 and 1996 Senate campaigns and also served on the RNC. Prior to becoming party chairwoman in 2017, Ronna McDaniel spent two years as state GOP chair. McDaniel is also the niece of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 nominee and a former governor of Massachusetts.
Should she step down to run for governor, RNC co-chairman Tommy Hicks would become temporary chair. The committee, which meets twice a year, would then vote at its next meeting to select a permanent chair.
Republicans view Whitmer as a top target in 2022. Critics have hammered her for not adhering for own stringent coronavirus health restrictions — most recently over revelations that she traveled to Florida to visit her elderly father. A recent EPIC-MRA survey found Whitmer with a 52 percent approval rating, down from 56 percent in September.
McDaniel would have a full year to decide whether to pull the trigger: Michigan’s filing deadline isn’t until next April, and the Republican primary isn’t until Aug. 2022.
Should she run, McDaniel would likely be able to capitalize on a large amount of financial support. She has established close relationships with many of the party’s top donors, many of whom have cut large checks to the committee in recent years.
The list of potential Republican challengers also includes John James, an Iraq war veteran who waged unsuccessful 2018 and 2020 Senate campaigns.
McDaniel has long been a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, who tapped her to head the committee after he was elected. After Trump lost reelection, he endorsed McDaniel to serve a third term, and the RNC chose her without opposition.
But McDaniel has found herself in an uncomfortable position as the party prepares for a 2024 nominating contest. While Trump has made clear that he’s weighing a potential comeback bid, McDaniel has said that she will be a neutral figure atop the party.