By Nathan Layne and Gram Slattery
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Donald Trump on Monday endorsed North Carolina Republican Party Chair Michael Whatley as the next chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and his daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair.
Trump, the frontrunner to become the party’s nominee and take on Democratic President Joe Biden in November, said he needed the RNC to carry out its work “flawlessly” and to be “a good partner” with his campaign for the 2024 election.
The move to endorse Whatley follows weeks of media reports indicating that Trump had grown frustrated with the current chair, Ronna McDaniel, over lacklustre fundraising and the party’s performance at the ballot box. During her tenure, Trump was defeated in 2020, and the party turned in a weaker-than-expected performance in the 2022 midterm elections.
“I think my friend Michael Whatley should be the RNC’s next leader. Michael has been with me from the beginning, has done a great job in his home state of North Carolina,” Trump said in the statement.
“My very talented daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, has agreed to run as the RNC Co-Chair…She has told me she wants to accept this challenge and would be GREAT.”
As part of the reshuffling, Trump said Chris LaCivita, a co-manager of his campaign, would serve as the RNC’s chief operating officer. LaCivita is a veteran political operative who worked at the RNC during the 2016 race, helping thwart a challenge to Trump’s nomination on the convention floor.
Sources had told Reuters last week that McDaniel was looking to step down from her position after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24, which Trump is expected to win, putting him closer to securing the nomination.
Opinion polls suggest Trump will easily beat Nikki Haley, his sole remaining challenger, in the state.
McDaniel will continue working hard to beat Biden this fall, an RNC spokesperson said on Monday after Trump’s statement, adding: “Nothing has changed, and there will be no decision or announcement about future plans until after South Carolina.”
Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member from Iowa, said he expected Trump’s endorsed leadership slate to be approved by a majority of the body’s 168 members, who are responsible for formally selecting the party chair.
“If he’s going to be the presumptive nominee and is going to have a tough race he needs a team in place sooner rather than later,” Scheffler told Reuters. “I suspect there won’t be any opposition to this.”
The shakeup comes with Trump on the verge of defeating Haley and clinching the nomination, which would pave the way for his campaign and the RNC to launch a joint fundraising committee and start collecting big checks from donors.
“The RNC’s issue is that they are not raising enough money and they’re spending too much,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who worked on Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“If new people go in and get a handle on the expenses and win the confidence of major donors it would be very helpful for the campaign.”
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh, Nathan Layne and Gram Slattery; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Michael Perry)
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