DeSantis backs changes to Republican National Committee leadership

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday joined a growing chorus of Republican voices demanding a change of leadership at the Republican National Committee, arguing that the GOP needs to begin gearing up for an expectedly expensive contest for the White House in November.

DeSantis made the remarks during a press conference in Columbia, S.C. just days before the state’s Saturday Republican presidential primary. The visit to South Carolina was billed as an effort to promote his call for constitutional reforms, like term limits for members of Congress and a proposed requirement that the federal budget be balanced.

But he also waded into intraparty politics, including former President Donald Trump’s push to replace RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel with top allies, including North Carolina Republican Party Chair Michael Whatley and Trump’s own daughter-in-law Lara Trump.

While DeSantis said that he wasn’t overly familiar with Whatley or Lara Trump, he said that he has long-believed that it was time for a change in leadership at the RNC, especially after the party’s worse-than-expected performance in the 2022 midterm elections.

“We should have had a red wave, and that crashed and burned,” DeSantis said. “My view is: okay, you can’t just keep rewording if the performance isn’t there.”

It wasn’t the first time that DeSantis has called for turnover among the RNC’s top ranks. Last year, as McDaniel ran for another term as RNC chair, he told the conservative outlet Florida’s Voice in an interview that he wanted “some new blood in the RNC” and spoke fondly of Harmeet Dhillon, the RNC committeewoman from California who was challenging McDaniel for the top party job at the time.

Speaking to reporters at the State House in Columbia on Tuesday, DeSantis also warned that it was time for the GOP to begin setting aside its resources for the November presidential election. The RNC “is basically broke,” he said, while Democrats are raking in huge sums of money.

He said that it’s clear that Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee, and that the GOP needs to be prepared to face President Joe Biden’s well-financed reelection operation.

“I think the reality is that what you want to do is you want to husband resources for the general election. I don’t think that Trump is spending very much because he’s up so much,” he said. “Democrats are sitting on a lot of money.”

There are signs of financial strain at the RNC. The committee started the year with just $8 million in the bank, while Trump’s campaign had about $33 million on hand. Biden’s campaign and affiliated fundraising committee entered 2024 with about $117 million stashed away. In January alone, Biden and allied groups pulled in a combined $42 million, the president’s political operation announced on Tuesday.

Although Trump is considered the heavy favorite to win the GOP presidential nod, he still faces a primary challenge from Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor, who insisted in a speech earlier on Tuesday that she would remain in the race, despite trailing Trump by massive margins.

But DeSantis, who ended his own bid for the presidency last month after finishing in a distant second place behind Trump in the Iowa caucuses, said that, as far as he’s concerned, the “primary is over.” Haley, he said, simply lacks the ability to win over the Republican Party’s conservative voter base.

“There’s no question that South Carolina is going to be a big victory for Donald Trump, because he appeals to core Republicans in a way that Nikki Haley just does not or is not trying to,” he said.