LAS VEGAS — As Ronna McDaniel ponders whether to step down as chair of the Republican National Committee, Drew McKissick, now her co-chair and chairman of the South Carolina GOP, is actively fielding phone calls. other RNC members will replace McDaniel if he resigns.
Three sources familiar with his calls told NBC News that he is lobbying and gauging interest from the 168-member RNC body responsible for formally selecting the party chairman.
If McDaniel steps down, “he certainly wants to be the next chairman,” said Robin Armstrong, an RNC committeeman from Texas and a McKissik ally. “He is the chairman of the South Carolina party. He is currently the co-chairman [of the RNC]. I think his ascension to chairman of the RNC would be a natural next thing.
McKissick spoke with former President Donald Trump this week about the prospect of the presidency, one of the sources said. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
A senior adviser to Trump’s campaign on Wednesday published an article North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley floated the idea of replacing McDaniel. A senior Trump adviser also told NBC News that Trump likes Whatley as a potential candidate. And a year ago, Trump approved Whatley to serve as RNC co-chair.
But when the same body of 168 RNC members voted between the two in that caucus, McKissick easily beat him.
Another of the sources, an RNC member who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their deliberations, said McKissick is “actively feeling out to get people’s opinions.”
“He’s obviously trying to strengthen his position, and that would be a smart thing to do,” the member said. “It’s up to the RNC to decide.”
The member noted that Trump is not currently the president and therefore it is not in his power to make a choice.
“If he wants to pick his seat, go win and then pick,” the member continued. “[Whatley] it needs most of the body and I don’t see it.
If McDaniel resigns, McKissick will take over as interim party chairman. At this time, a special election for the chairman will take place.
A potential jockey for the RNC’s top spot — without McDaniel even announcing whether he intends to go — could complicate the party’s winter in a presidential election year and allow McDaniel to retain his mantle.
“I think there is absolutely a chance [McDaniel] is sticking around,” said a third source involved in discussions about the future of the RNC.
McKissick did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
McDaniel sent a message He told members on Wednesday afternoon that he was “still hard at work” amid reports that he may no longer be at his job.
“I am still serving as RNC Chair and building a machine that will elect Republicans up and down the ballot in November,” read an email two RNC members shared with NBC News. “Right now I’m fundraising, we’re working with staff in 15 states, the team is busy making phone calls and door knocking to get people out the vote.
The email arrives a day later The New York Times reported on this McDaniel told Trump he would resign after the South Carolina Democratic primary on February 24. NBC News has not confirmed the story and two sources said no decision has been made yet. The RNC also denied this in a statement.
McDaniel may leave the party after South Carolina — but the plan remains to be decided after that nominating contest, sources told NBC News.
Trump’s campaign is working on two plans to take over the RNC. The first option would be for McDaniel to resign, which would trigger a special election.
A second option involves creating two additional co-chair jobs with appointees – one to oversee funding and the other to oversee party operations. Under this scenario, McDaniel would remain the RNC chairman, but there would be a new layer of leadership appointed by Trump to deal with him.
Trump last week sparked speculation about McDaniel’s future with the party. He said over the weekend, “some changes” He would have come to the RNC if he had been the Republican nominee, and he admitted Monday night that something was coming — but likely after the South Carolina primary.