RNC invites 2024 hopefuls to January meeting in show of neutrality toward Trump

3 min


By

Alex Isenstadt

Trump on Tuesday evening made his most explicit comments yet expressing interest in a 2024 campaign, telling RNC members at a White House Christmas party, “It’s been an amazing four years. We are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years.”

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Senior Republicans have been privately gossiping for weeks about prospective challengers to McDaniel, but none have pulled the trigger on a bid.

The roster includes former White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who wrote in a text message Wednesday that he’d been approached about the RNC post but that he hasn’t “pursued it.” Mulvaney, who later became the U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, said he was instead focusing on his newly launched hedge fund and “a couple other projects.”

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who lost reelection last month, has also been mentioned for the chairmanship but isn’t expected to run.

Barbour, another rumored candidate and the nephew of ex-RNC Chair Haley Barbour, said in an interview that he’d ruled out a bid and had endorsed McDaniel.

Still, McDaniel has faced questions in her private calls with members about whether she would be an impartial umpire. Given the chair’s close relationship with Trump, some in the party have expressed concern that under her leadership the committee would be a subsidiary of the president and that Trump would use it to advance his ambitions.

But McDaniel’s allies have strenuously pushed back on those suggestions. They note that the RNC stayed out of a handful of GOP nomination fights Trump meddled in himself, including the 2018 Georgia and Kansas gubernatorial primaries. The RNC was also on the sidelines during the 2017 Alabama Senate primary, when Trump endorsed then-Sen. Luther Strange over former state Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore. Moore would end up winning the primary before ultimately losing the special election to Democrat Doug Jones.

“I have full confidence that Chairwoman McDaniel would be neutral in the GOP primaries. She understands all nominations are in the hands of the Republican voters,” said Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan.

Aside from Trump, McDaniel has received endorsements from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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With McDaniel a virtual lock for reelection, those looking to climb the GOP ranks have chosen to seek the lower-profile post of RNC co-chair. Sitting co-chair Tommy Hicks is running for reelection, but he has drawn a challenge from Utah committee member Bruce Hough. Arkansas GOP Chair Doyle Webb is mulling a bid, as is Washington State committee member Jeff Kent and Vermont committee member Jay Shepard.

McDaniel has privately told members she doesn’t plan to seek reelection in 2023, meaning the winner of the co-chairmanship could have a leg up on taking over the top job for the next presidential election.

It remains unclear which potential presidential candidates will attend the January RNC meeting; most of them did not respond to requests for comment on their plans.

The event could become one of the first cattle calls of the 2024 cycle. RNC meetings often attract a wave of White House aspirants and their top advisers, who use the gatherings to forge relationships with influential party officials.

“In some form or fashion there will be a 2024 nominating process. Whether the president runs or whether he’ll have a credible challenger remains to be seen. It would be smart for candidates to plow the fields and see what happens,” said Matt Moore, a former South Carolina GOP chair. “Reaching out to RNC members shows a seriousness given that RNC members are the most connected people in their states.”

While Trump’s declarations of interest in a comeback bid have prevented would-be GOP candidates from taking more overt steps to lay presidential groundwork, many of them have aggressively engaged in the Georgia Senate runoffs, potentially helping them earn chits that could pay dividends down the line. Scott, Rubio, Cotton, and Pence have all visited the state recently.

“Smart politicians keep their options open,” said former New Hampshire committee member Steve Duprey, “and you’re seeing President Trump and all these other politicians do just that.”

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