Turning Point USA may do to national GOP what it did to Arizona’s – destroy it

Charlie Kirk gives the opening speech during AmericaFest 2023 at the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.
Charlie Kirk gives the opening speech during AmericaFest 2023 at the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.
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A food fight has broken out in the national Republican Party with angry words flying like bacon, lettuce and tomato.

The party faithful are saying out loud what otherwise gets whispered behind closed doors.

Now those accusations are painting the picture of a fractured Republican Party on the cusp of the 2024 presidential election.

The Republican inner circle is fighting

The internecine war, as reported by Real Clear Politics and NBC News, describes a GOP in conflict over the ouster of Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel.

Defenders of McDaniel say that among those behind the ouster was Arizonan Charlie Kirk, who in 2012 founded the conservative youth movement Turning Point USA.

The McDaniel defenders paint Kirk as a kind of hostile takeover operator, who was already raiding the RNC donor base and wanted to take out the chair and increase his influence within the national party.

Kirk and Turning Point strongly deny this.

All of this will interest Arizona conservatives, as Turning Point is the organization that took over the Arizona Republican Party and helped move the needle on Arizona politics in the wrong direction.

Turning Point helped remake the AZ GOP

Today in Arizona, a state in which Republicans still boast a 206,000 voter-registration lead over Democrats, the Democrats have taken control of the governor’s office, secretary of state, attorney general and Arizona’s two U.S. Senate seats.

One of those Senate seats, Kyrsten Sinema’s, has since gone independent.

Those results can hardly be blamed on Turning Point alone.

Arizona independents and moderate Republicans have punished the smash-mouthed populism of the Make America Great Again movement embodied by former President Donald Trump.

Turning Point was a vehicle for remaking the Republican Party more completely in the image of Trump.

In the 2022 election, Arizona voters would have none of it.

They rejected the major GOP candidates who ran MAGA campaigns. Two years earlier, they voted for Democrat Joe Biden over Trump, handing Arizona's 11 electoral votes to Biden.

Ronna McDaniel lost favor with Trump

Ronna McDaniel, the niece of U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has long been a target of criticism in the GOP.

Last year, then presidential contender and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sought to change RNC leadership with someone more capable of raising funds and inspiring voters.

Trump defended McDaniel and ultimately won that contest.

But Turning Point’s Charlie Kirk remained a fierce opponent of McDaniel’s and worked to piledrive her into the ground.

“You’re a loser,” he said of her. “A professional, Romney-infiltrating loser. ... Is Ronna McRomney there to make sure that we lose in 2024? I’m telling President Trump privately and publicly he’d better remove her. Does Ronna Romney want Donald Trump in prison? I really think she’s an infiltration at this point.”

Obviously, Kirk didn’t control the fate of Ronna McDaniel. She has served at the pleasure of Donald Trump. And when Trump finally turned on her late last year, she would eventually tender her resignation.

Turning Point's Charlie Kirk attacked MLK

With her ouster came recriminations, and Real Clear Politics was the first to report them.

When McDaniel realized Trump had turned on her, she went to Mar-A-Lago to meet with him, reported Real Clear’s Philip Wegmann.

“Charlie Kirk’s name came up, according to sources familiar with the discussion. One topic of conversation was whether TPUSA was attracting dollars and donors that would otherwise flow to his campaign and whether Kirk’s criticism of Martin Luther King Jr. might undermine Trump’s growing strength among Black voters.”

The latter reference was to Kirk’s idiotic attack on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. — the face of the heroic Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Kirk called King “awful” and “not a good person.”

Had Kirk sleep-walked through the Black Lives Matter movement that culminated in the George Floyd protests of 2020?

That could have fallout for Trump

Movement leaders largely ignored MLK and celebrated the more militant Black leaders of King’s era — the Black leaders who hated King.

Some BLM leaders echoed the racial separatism and Black nationalism of those other leaders and promoted the dismantling of America’s founding ideas, which culminated in some places with the toppling of statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

King, on the other hand, had made America’s founders the moral bedrock of the Civil Rights Movement, challenging all Americans to finally live up to their high ideals.

Multitudes of Americans, left and right, revere King because he used peaceful means to crush racial prejudice. And because, while flawed, he was an exceptionally good man.

McDaniel allies warned Trump that Kirk’s tirade against King and some ugly Kirk remarks about not trusting Black commercial-airline pilots, could undermine Trump’s support among Black voters, reported RCP and NBC News.

“Trump is f---ing pissed that Charlie is out causing problems for him in the Black community,” a source close to Trump told NBC News.

Yet Donald Jr. defends Kirk

To the contrary, Donald Trump Jr. told RCP, his father has a high opinion of Charlie Kirk.

“This is nothing more than fiction coming from people jealous of the close relationship Charlie has built with our family. He is in great standing with both my father and the entire Trump campaign.”

Another highly placed Trump source told RCP, “What’s true is that Ronna attempted to knife Charlie, but no one of importance in Trump’s orbit bought the knifing.”

But Darrell Scott, a pastor from Ohio who was one of Trump’s important Black allies, said, “There are a number of others that are not in agreement with Charlie’s bullcrap and that are saying we don’t need this,” reported NBC News.

“Every single call I’ve got from some people high up in the Republican Party and people high up in the Trump orbit — they’re all on my side. They’re all saying, ‘I’m glad you’re telling him to shut up.’ ”

Is Trump playing a double game on Kirk?

The NBC News coverage points to another reason Turning Point might have targeted Ronna McDaniel.

Kirk and fellow Arizonan Tyler Bowyer, chief operating officer at Turning Point USA, wanted control of RNC’s dollars and donor lists, a Trump ally told NBC News.

At Turning Point Action’s “Restoring National Confidence” summit ahead of this month’s RNC winter meetings in Las Vegas, state and local GOP chairs were pitched on moving their voter outreach and canvassing efforts to an app created by Superfeed Technologies, a company led by Tyler Bowyer, the chief operating officer of Turning Point USA.

“This is why he was trying to get rid of Ronna,” the Trump ally told NBC News. “He shouldn’t make it sound like, ‘Oh, we’re tired of losing. We don’t have an early vote program.’ He should have just said, ‘Listen, he who controls the RNC controls millions of dollars and I want to get my hands on them.’ I mean, that would have been a more honest grift.”

For their part, Turning Point denies they are doing anything other than trying to win the next election.

So what’s the truth here?

Don’t be surprised if Donald Trump is playing a double game, embracing Kirk through some channels while warning through others he needs to watch his mouth.

What could be more Trump-like than that?

Phil Boas is an editorial columnist with The Arizona Republic. Email him at phil.boas@arizonarepublic.com.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Turning Point USA starts a food fight with the Republican Party