Ron DeSantis calls for “new blood” in RNC — but Ronna McDaniel wins anyway

“I do think we need some fresh thinking,” DeSantis says, before Trump-installed RNC chair wins another term

Published January 27, 2023 6:00PM (EST)

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Just 24 hours before Ronna McDaniel was re-elected to a fourth term as chair of the Republican National Committee, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for "new blood" at the RNC, praising Harmeet Dhillon, McDaniel's principal challenger. It obviously wasn't enough: McDaniel beat Dhillon by a vote of 111-51, with four votes for MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

Politico reports that McDaniel was forced "to assemble an aggressive whip operation to shore up her support." After her victory, she called for Republican unity:


"We need all of us," McDaniel told committee members after calling Dhillon and Lindell to join her onstage. "We heard you, grassroots. We know. We heard Harmeet; we heard Mike Lindell… [W]ith us united and all of us joining together, the Democrats are going to hear us in 2024."

Dhillon said she was "committed to healing and coming together with folks," but also described her campaign as a "national grassroots movement," suggesting that "if our party is perceived as totally out of touch with the grassroots — which I think some may take away from this outcome — we have some work to do."

In his effort to boost Dhillon before Friday's vote, DeSantis sought to blame the GOP's recent setbacks on McDaniel, and perhaps indirectly on former President Donald Trump, who installed her as party chair in the first place.   

"We've had three substandard election cycles in a row, '18, '20, and '22, and I'd say '22 was the worst," DeSantis said Thursday. "I think we need a change, I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC, I like what Harmeet Dhillon said about getting the RNC out of D.C.," DeSantis told Charlie Kirk, the conservative founder of Turning Point USA, who had endorsed Dhillon. 

"I do think we need some fresh thinking," said DeSantis, who is expected to be Trump's main opponent for the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination. "And practically, you need grassroots Republicans to power this organization with volunteering and donations, and I think it's going to be very difficult to energize people to want to give money and volunteer their time with the RNC if they don't change direction."

DeSantis also criticized his party for its losses during the 2022 midterm elections, claiming that the political environment was "tailor-made to make big gains in the House and the Senate and state houses all around the country. And yet that didn't happen."

While around 30 RNC members were listed on Dhillon's website as supporters of her campaign, she evidently lacked enough widespread support to become chair, despite the vocal support of outside activists and right-wing media celebrities like Kirk, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. 

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McDaniel will now lead the party through the 2024 presidential election. The RNC controls most of the presidential nominating process, including debates and voting calendars, and helps with fundraising to elect a Republican president. Committee rules dictate that it must remain neutral during the presidential primary, a major change from 2020 when Trump was running as an incumbent. He remains the only announced GOP candidate for 2024, but several other contenders are expected to announce their campaigns in the coming months, including DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Dhillon told reporters that she would remain neutral in the 2024 primary, but implied that her Trump-aligned opponent, McDaniel, would not. "President Trump's team is here whipping votes for Ronna … so I think that speaks for itself," Dhillon commented. McDaniel has previously stated that she would remain neutral as well. 

At least officially, Trump stayed out of the RNC race, saying he would "let them fight it out." To some extent, McDaniel's victory is a signal that he still has considerable influence within the party.

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

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Aggregate Donald Trump Harmeet Dhillon Mike Lindell Republicans Rick Scott Ron Desantis Ronna Mcdaniel