Ronna Romney McDaniel (born March 20, 1973) is an American political operative who is the Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and former Chair of the Michigan Republican Party. McDaniel is a granddaughter of two and a half-term Michigan Governor and businessman George W. Romney and niece of Senator Mitt Romney.
As RNC Chair, she has been known for her prolific fundraising and staunch support for President Trump. Under her leadership, the RNC ran ads for Trump’s 2020 campaign as early as 2018, put numerous Trump campaign workers and affiliates on the RNC payroll, spent considerable funds at Trump-owned properties, covered Trump’s legal fees in the Russian interference investigation, hosted Trump’s Fake News Awards, and criticized Trump critics within the Republican Party.
Early life, education, and family
On March 20, 1973, McDaniel was born as Ronna Romney in Austin, Texas. McDaniel is the third of five children born to Ronna Stern Romney and Scott Romney, the older brother of Mitt Romney. McDaniel is a granddaughter of three-term Michigan Governor George W. Romney. Romney’s mother ran for the U.S. Senate in 1996 against Carl Levin, served on the Republican National Committee, and was a delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention. Romney’s grandmother, Lenore Romney, ran for the U.S. Senate in 1970. McDaniel’s said her career in politics was inspired by her family.
McDaniel worked in Michigan for her uncle Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign for President of the United States. She was elected Michigan’s representative to the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 2014.
In 2015, McDaniel ran for chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, receiving support from both the party establishment and Tea Party activists. At the party’s convention in February 2015, she defeated Norm Hughes and Kim Shmina, receiving 55% of the vote in the first ballot. She succeeded Bobby Schostak as chairwoman and stepped down from her position at the RNC.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, McDaniel served as a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention for Donald Trump. Following the 2016 presidential election, McDaniel became a candidate to chair the Republican National Committee.
McDaniel was an early supporter of Donald Trump. McDaniel had activist Wendy Day removed from her party position as grassroots vice-chair due to her refusal to support Trump.
RNC chair (2016–present)
On November 13, 2016, Reince Priebus, chairman of the RNC, was announced as the new White House Chief of Staff, thereby turning the RNC chairman election into an open seat election. Soon afterward, several candidates were reported as likely to seek the position, including McDaniel.
On December 14, 2016, McDaniel was chosen by then president-elect Trump as his recommendation to replace Priebus. She served as deputy chair before her formal election. She was officially elected as RNC chair on January 19, 2017, becoming the second woman (after Mary Louise Smith) in RNC history to hold the post. According to The Washington Post, Trump requested that she stop using her maiden name, and McDaniel subsequently did not use it in official communications. McDaniel denies that Trump pressured her to change the name.
The New York Times described McDaniel as “unfailingly loyal to Trump.” According to a 2018 study in The Journal of Politics, under her leadership the RNC has sought to consistently promote Trump and his policies. This includes running ads for Trump’s 2020 campaign as early as in 2018, putting a considerable number of Trump campaign workers and affiliates on the RNC payroll, spending considerable funds at Trump-owned properties, covering Trump’s legal fees in the Russian interference investigation, hosting Trump’s “Fake News Awards”, and harshly criticizing Trump critics within the Republican Party. The day after Republican congressman Mark Sanford, known for his criticism of Trump, lost his primary against a pro-Trump candidate, McDaniel tweeted that those who do not embrace Trump’s agenda “will be making a mistake”. In April 2018, McDaniel praised Trump as a “moral leader”.
Politico reported that after President Trump endorsed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore just days before the special Alabama Senate election, the White House influenced McDaniel to resume RNC funding for Moore, who lost in a narrow election to Democrat Doug Jones on December 12, 2017. According to two people close to McDaniel, she privately complained about spending time and money on Moore’s behalf. McDaniel was reportedly shocked by Trump’s decision to endorse Moore but felt that she had little choice but to follow the president’s wishes.
In October 2017 after Harvey Weinstein, a major donor to the Democratic Party, was accused of sexual abuse, McDaniel said that “returning Weinstein’s dirty money should be a no-brainer”; the Democratic Party did give away some of Weinstein’s contributions. In January 2018, Steve Wynn resigned as RNC finance chairman after he was accused of sexual misconduct and McDaniel came under pressure to return his donations. McDaniel said that Wynn should be allowed “due process” and that his donations would only be returned after the allegations were investigated by the Wynn Resorts board of directors. In May 2019, it was reported that Wynn had donated nearly $400,000 to the national Republican Party, most of it to the RNC, the previous month. In 2017, Wynn and his wife donated $375,000 to the RNC. As of May 2019, none of the money has been returned by the RNC.
Under McDaniel’s leadership, the RNC set up a website in April 2018 which attacked and sought to undermine former FBI Director James Comey and called him “Lyin’ Comey”. McDaniel said Comey was a liar and a leaker, and said that the RNC would “make sure the American people understand why he has no one but himself to blame for his complete lack of credibility”.
As of 2018, McDaniel spends up to six hours daily calling donors. Under McDaniel’s leadership, the RNC had what the Washington Post described as “a huge financial edge heading into the 2018 midterm elections.” As of January 2018, the RNC had almost $40 million banked while the Democratic National Committee had a mere $6.3 million. As of July 17, the Republican National Committee had raised about $213 million for the election cycle with $50.7 million in cash on hand and no debt. The Democratic National Committee raised just $101 million during the same period.
In late July 2018, McDaniel falsely claimed that Twitter was shadow banning Republicans, including herself. Twitter did not shadowban Republicans, but due to a glitch, several prominent conservative and left-leaning Twitter accounts were not automatically suggested in the site’s drop-down search results. Twitter responded, saying it would fix the bug.
Politico reported in November 2018 that McDaniel called on the Republican candidate Martha McSally to be more aggressive during the ballot counting process in the Arizona Senate race. The Arizona Senate race remained undecided for several days after election night while all ballots were being accounted in a close contest. McSally held a lead by the end of election night, but her lead narrowed over the next few days, as more ballots were counted. Reportedly, the McSally campaign was being pressured from McDaniel for not being aggressive enough.
In January 2019, Mitt Romney penned an editorial for The Washington Post criticizing President Trump’s moral character. McDaniel said the editorial by her uncle, “an incoming Republican freshman senator”, “feeds into what the Democrats and mainstream media want” and was “disappointing and unproductive.” In March 2019, McDaniel stated she would not support “the nicest, most moral person in the world” to be president if they were not “aligned with [her] politics”.
In May 2019, when House Representative Justin Amash became the first Republican member of Congress to call for Trump’s impeachment, citing the evidence of obstruction of justice in the Mueller Report, McDaniel criticized Amash, saying he was “parroting the Democrats’ talking points on Russia”. While she did not explicitly express support for a primary challenge against Amash, she tweeted, “voters in Amash’s district strongly support this president.”
In September 2019, McDaniel asked Doug Manchester, whose nomination to become Ambassador to the Bahamas was stalled in the Senate, for $500,000 in donations to the Republican Party. Manchester responded, noting that his wife had given $100,000 and that his family would “respond” once he was confirmed by the Republican-led Senate to the ambassadorship. CBS News described McDaniel’s action as a “possible pay-for-play scheme” for the ambassadorship.
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|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Michigan Republican Party
| Chair of the Republican National Committee