Ronna McDaniel’s position as chair of the Republican National Committee has been on life support for some time. The Republican Party took in only $87.2 million in donations during 2023, compared with $176.6 million in 2022, ending the year with a scant $8 million in the bank. That’s barely enough to run one 30-second Super Bowl ad, much less power Donald Trump through his 2024 election. It certainly won’t cover his legal bills.
Trump’s heavy-handed hints finally drove McDaniel to call it quits at the end of the Republicans’ no good, very bad day on Tuesday. That leaves the party with the top seat sitting empty at a time when primaries are already underway and the general election is rapidly approaching. This is not the best time for a round of musical chairs in the party hierarchy.
Trump reportedly has a new pick in mind. His choice is Michael Whatley, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and also head of “elections integrity” efforts at the RNC. Whatley has repeated many of the “Big Lie” top 10, including claiming that there was “massive fraud” around the county, even if Trump could produce no evidence.
And Whatley already has an election to inspect over possible issues of fraud: The election of Michael Whatley.
That Republicans are running way behind in 2023 could be related to how they canned their best fundraiser last year. Ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy raised more than $40 million for the RNC in the last election cycle. More than $20 million out of that anemic total for 2023 came from McCarthy. Now he’s not only been sidelined, he’s gone from the House.
The Associated Press reports that McCarthy spent years flying around the country, raising cash, and building political relationships. It wouldn’t be surprising to find that those brought into the fold by McCarthy were less excited about donating to a party that forced him into early retirement.
As Trump has made “MAGA” and “Republican” synonymous, he’s raked in massive donations. That doesn’t just include small-money donors, but industries like oil and gas that might have previously donated to the party rather than a single candidate. Trump and his PACs raised just under $200 million in the past year. That would be good … except that they spent $210 million.
In a year when more than $10 billion could be spent on campaigns, Republicans are off to a very slow start in gathering funds. Trump is hoovering up the cash, the party’s well is dry, and what other candidates are going to do is anyone’s guess.
How Whatley is supposed to improve that situation isn’t quite clear. A former Senate staffer and energy lobbyist, he might be expected to have some contacts in his old industry, but those guys have already laid out the money for Trump. It’s not a coincidence that Trump says when he becomes dictator “on Day One,” he will declare, “Drill, baby, drill.”
Whatley may not give the party a cash infusion, but he does offer one thing that Trump finds irresistible: full support of the Big Lie.
He repeated false claims that Republican observers in Michigan and Pennsylvania were shut out of polling stations. Whatley claimed there was widespread voter fraud in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. And he accused Democrats of going to court to overturn recounts—when all those recounts actually upheld Joe Biden’s victory. It was Trump who took the results to court.
Following Jan. 6, Whatley also made false claims that those arrested ”were not necessarily Republican voters” or Trump supporters.
Though Whatley complained about the possibility of the elections being settled in the courts in 2020, he had changed his mind a few months later, telling fellow Republicans that lawsuits (or at least threats of lawsuits) are the “key to fair elections.”
But it may have been something else that endeared Whatley to Trump. Because if you Google “Michael Whatley election fraud,” something more than his current role at the RNC pops up. That something is that Whatley himself cheated to win the top position in the North Carolina RNC.
Like many state parties, North Carolina Republicans elect their officers at a convention. To cast a vote at that convention, delegates have to be on the floor of the convention center when the vote is cast. But in 2023, Republicans built a mobile app allowing delegates to cast their votes electronically rather than dealing with paper ballots or a hand count. Whatley’s opponent for the state chairmanship says the use of the app “violated several rules blatantly.”
The three delegates suing Whatley claim that the app was built so that delegates not on the floor could still slip in a vote. And, taking Whatley’s advice, they launched a lawsuit last June saying that Whatley was not duly elected and shouldn’t be in the role.
All of this may make Whatley more valuable to Trump. McDaniel’s replacement may not know how to raise cash, but he knows how to cheat. In 2024, Trump may believe that’s more important.
Republished with permission from Daily Kos.