But pointing to recent infighting within the Republican Party, McDaniel warned that the GOP has “to unite” in order to be successful in the 2022 elections, when the party hopes to win back majorities in the House and Senate and maintain its advantage over the Democrats in the governorships and state legislatures.
“I’ve talked to the president (Trump). I’ve talked to others around the president, who are talking to him every day. He’s not going to start a third party,” McDaniel emphasized in an interview Tuesday with Fox News.
Recent national reports suggested that the former president was in discussions with top political advisers over potentially forming a third party – possibly named ‘The Patriot Party’ – which Trump would lead and use to compete with the GOP.
But Trump’s 2020 campaign senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News on Sunday that the former president’s “made clear his goal is to win back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022.” Miller added that “there’s nothing that’s actively being planned regarding an effort outside of that, but it’s completely up to Republican Senators if this is something that becomes more serious.”
That appeared to be an implicit warning to Republican senators not to join Senate Democrats in voting to convict Trump in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.
Trump has repeatedly vowed to play an influential role in the GOP going forward, threatening to back primary challenges to Republicans up for reelection in 2022 who didn’t support his unsuccessful push to upend his election defeat to President Biden. Trump’s also flirting with a 2024 presidential run to try and win back the White House.
While politically wounded by the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by right wing extremists and other Trump supporters intent on disrupting congressional certification of Biden’s White House victory – after encouragement from the then-president – the latest polling indicates Trump remains very popular among Republicans.
That sentiment seem to be reflected in the actions of GOP members of Congress. Nearly two-thirds of House Republicans – even after the joint session of Congress was delayed six hours after the insurrection against the Capitol – objected to certifying the Electoral College results in two states that Biden narrowly edged over Trump in the presidential election. And 197 House Republicans voted two weeks ago against impeaching Trump, with just 10 GOP lawmakers joining all 222 Democrats in voting for impeachment.
Top Trump political adviser Corey Lewandowski – highlighting at the beginning of the month the quarter billion dollars raised by Trump since the November election – told Fox News at the time that the fundraising haul “will give him (Trump) the opportunity to target individuals who don’t support the Make America Great Again agenda in 2022, and that includes Republicans.”
“You’ve got someone who is unbelievably popular, who has enormous amounts of cash on hand, and has the opportunity and desire to weigh in and hold people accountable for both their statements and their records,” Lewandowski said.
McDaniel told Fox News that Trump’s “interested in getting involved in the midterms to make sure we win back the majorities.”
But asked about Trump’s attacks on Republicans up for re-election in 2022 – such as Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Mike DeWine of Ohio and Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Thune of South Dakota – McDaniel answered that “the RNC stays neutral in primaries for a very good reason. Because somebody has to be there to pick up the pieces of difficult primaries and help bring the party back together to focus on how do we win the general election.”
And she noted that “even when the president was in office and was endorsing in primaries across the country, the RNC maintained its neutrality.”
This past weekend the Arizona GOP censured Republican Gov. Doug Ducey as well as Cindy McCain, the widow of the late longtime Arizona senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The move came as the state’s Republican Party chair – strong Trump supporter Kelli Ward – was narrowly re-elected thanks in part to backing from the former president.
McDaniel told Fox News that “Kelli and I talked about the resolutions as they were coming up. She knew where I stood, specifically with the first draft of the Cindy McCain resolution, which was just abhorrent language.”
The RNC chair’s interview comes as Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who’s number three in GOP leadership in the chamber, is facing a push by a majority of House Republicans for her removal from her leadership post due to her vote in favor of impeaching Trump.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a top Trump ally in the House, is heading to Wyoming on Thursday to target Cheney.
“I’m coming to talk about the failed leadership of Liz Cheney within our party and the failed policies that she advocates for,” he told reporters on Monday. “Most of the members of the Republican Conference don’t believe that Liz Cheney speaks for them. So it is untenable for her to remain in the position of conference chair.”
Against this backdrop, McDaniel’s’ preaching party unity.
“I have a firm belief that as a party, we have to unite,” emphasized McDaniel, who was unanimously re-elected earlier the month to another two-year term steering the national party committee thanks to endorsements from Trump, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the top two Republicans in Congress.
McDaniel warned that “if we continue to attack each other and focus on attacking on fellow Republicans, if we have disagreements within our party, then we are losing sight of 2022. The only way we’re going to win is if we come together and recognize that our policies of cutting taxes, deregulation, energy independence, rule of law judges, our policies that the American people want to hear about. They don’t want hear about infighting within the GOP.”
While the GOP brand arguably took a hit from storming of the Capitol, McDaniel doesn’t think it will be long lasting.
“We started last year with an impeachment and I don’t think most people remember that. The news cycles change,” she noted. “I think people are going to be voting based on ‘how is this going to affect my life’.”
And she highlighted that painting contrasts with the Biden administration and congressional Democrats will win the day in 2022.
“Already you’re seeing Biden putting forward policies that will bankrupt our country… already eliminating jobs in key states,” the RNC chair charged. “The further we get through this and the contrasts from a policy perspective between the administration we just had and the one that’s in office. I think we have a good shot and we’ll win back those majorities in 2022.”