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Trump backs new RNC chairman with his daughter-in-law Lara as co-chair

Donald Trump has formally endorsed North Carolina Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley as his choice to lead the Republican National Committee (RNC) in place of the outgoing Ronna McDaniel.

Mr Trump also proposed his own daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as the RNC’s co-chair, as had been widely predicted, and his joint campaign manager, Chris LaCivita, as chief operating officer – representing a near-total potential Maga takeover of the organising committee.

“I think my friend Michael Whatley should be the RNC’s next leader,” Mr Trump said in a statement.

“Michael has been with me from the beginning, has done a great job in his home state of North Carolina, and is committed to election integrity, which we must have to keep fraud out of our election so it can’t be stolen.

“My very talented daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, has agreed to run as the RNC co-chair. Lara is an extremely talented communicator and is dedicated to all that MAGA stands for. She has told me she wants to accept this challenge and would be GREAT!”

The Trump wing of the Republican Party is understood to have grown increasingly dissatisfied with Ms McDaniel’s leadership ever since its poor showing in the 2022 midterm elections, with subsequent fundraising shortfalls piling on the pressure from donors, activists and aides for her to resign.

The RNC has lagged behind the Democratic National Committee in whipping up donations in recent years, a symptom of both Ms McDaniel’s inability to raise larger sums and Mr Trump’s dominance of the playing field as he and his Save America PAC vacuum up the lion’s share of donations, including from small-dollar supporters, with the former president having to bankroll not only his own campaign but also his numerous legal battles in New York, DC, and Georgia.

The Republican Party has meanwhile experienced a net loss of seven governorships, three Senate seats and 19 House seats over the course of Ms McDaniel’s seven years in charge.

Michael Whatley has been tapped as the new RNC chair (AP)
Michael Whatley has been tapped as the new RNC chair (AP)

The rift between Mr Trump and the RNC chair grew last summer over the question of the party’s primary debates, according to The Washington Post, after the former refused to join his fellow contenders on stage.

The frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination was asked about Ms McDaniel’s future by Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business earlier this month and answered: “I think she did OK, initially, in the RNC. I would say right now, there’ll probably be some changes made.”

Rob Schmitt of Newsmax subsequently asked Mr Trump if he believed it was time for her to step aside, to which he answered: “I think she knows that, I think she understands that.”

She has since offered to make her exit after the South Carolina Republican primary on 24 February, her dogged loyalty to Mr Trump ending on a decidedly sour note.

Donald Trump and Ronna McDaniel at a 2017 rally (AFP/Getty)
Donald Trump and Ronna McDaniel at a 2017 rally (AFP/Getty)

South Carolina Republican Party chairperson Drew McKissick and Florida Republican National Committee member Joe Gruters had also been mentioned as possible successors, but Mr Trump’s opinion was always likely to carry the most sway over the committee’s 168 members, and he was always set on Mr Whatley after he supported Maga’s bogus election fraud narrative in 2020.

Mr Whatley has since acknowledged that Joe Biden is the country’s legitimate president, however.

Mr Trump’s endorsements drew a withering response from Nikki Haley, his last remaining rival for the party’s presidential nomination, whose spokesperson compared the situation to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.

“Under Donald Trump and current RNC leadership, Republicans lost elections in 2018, 2020 and 2022 and now the RNC is effectively bankrupt,” Ms Haley’s campaign manager Betsy Ankney said in a dismissive statement.