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Trump's RNC reverses plans for some cuts after backlash

March 16, 2024



Red, white, and blue elephants

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Donald Trump's new team at the Republican National Committee is reversing its plans to cut the party's community centers for minority voters — and a program to encourage early voting — after a backlash from RNC members.

Why it matters: It's a sign that some of the new RNC leadership's moves — which included firing dozens of staffers — did not go over well with many RNC members.

Zoom in: Some RNC members worry that the Trump team's plans to cut group's resources at the state level will direct more to his presidential campaign at the expense of the party's long-term future.


  • The firings and the Trump team's initial signals about the program cuts seemed to confirm many members' fears about the Trump takeover, which involved installing North Carolina GOP chair Michael Whatley and Lara Trump — the ex-president's daughter-in-law — as the RNC's new leaders.

  • "The Trump campaign should keep in mind, this ain't just about the White House. It's bigger than that, bigger than one candidate," one RNC member told Axios.

Driving the news: Late Thursday, Whatley sent a three-page memo to RNC members saying the programs were safe.


  • "Despite what you may have heard, we are not closing community centers," Whatley wrote.

  • He added that the early voting initiative was safe as well, and "will continue educating and empowering voters to feel confident in early voting and voting by mail."

That's a departure from what Trump's campaign had indicated for months as it prepared to take over the RNC.


  • In January, the RNC stopped signing new leases for community centers after the campaign privately told the party it no longer was interested in prioritizing the centers, two people familiar with the matter told Axios. The Daily Beast and the Messenger have since reported on plans to shutter community centers.

  • "Yeah, well, actually, we are keeping those all open," Lara Trump told Fox News on Thursday.

  • Since last fall, top Trump officials privately had played down the RNC's early voting initiative. The Washington Post reported just three days ago that it would be replaced by another program, citing top Trump officials.

  • Republicans — led by Trump — were highly skeptical of mail-in voting in 2020, as Trump falsely linked the practice to "millions" of fraudulent votes. Some Republicans remain skeptical, but many figure that not embracing early voting would give Democrats an advantage.

What they're saying: "It looks like the RNC is making an adjustment," RNC member Shawn Steel told Axios in an interview Friday. "I hope they will expand the community centers."


  • "I'm glad that [Trump senior adviser Chris] LaCivita and Whatley are tapping the brake and trying to think through some of these changes," another RNC member told Axios.

  • "It's important in states where people can vote early that Republicans participate in that," the member said.

  • "There are probably 1,000,000 Asian American votes in the five battleground states. Community engagement would be fantastically effective. That would include of course legions of African American males and Latinos in general," Steel said.
The big picture: Trump's RNC team cut more than 60 positions last Monday, including nearly all of the state strategies team, which provided communications, digital and data support to state GOP groups.


  • "I don't think it's practical, that they're going to get rid of all those people," another RNC member told Axios. "There's too many things that they're doing — important programs that go beyond our top priority, which is winning the White House."

Trump campaign spokesperson Danielle Alvarez told Axios: "The RNC is undergoing change and is focused on winning in November."


  • "Never Trump Republicans and Democrats may complain as we move from the primary to general election, but our commitment remains the same: Deliver a victory for President Trump, Republicans on the ballot, and the American people."




Trump’s hand-picked RNC bosses abruptly cancel plans to gut minority outreach after pushback

March 16, 2024

Lara Trump speaking at a rally in South Carolina

Lara Trump speaking at a rally in South Carolina (Image: Screengrab via WJCL News / YouTube)

Written By:  March 16, 2024

The Republican National Committee (RNC) previously planned to slash its budget for engaging minority voters in battleground states. But after that plan caused an uproar from GOP activists, former President Donald Trump's new RNC leadership did a full one-eighty.

Because the 2024 election will be decided in states with large concentrations of Black and Hispanic voters — like Arizona and Georgia — the RNC originally planned to open community centers in those states aimed at engaging with voters of color. These centers would focus on increasing early vote turnout, conducting vote-by-mail educational sessions and giving the RNC an opportunity to cut into the leads Democrats traditionally have with minority demographics. Axios recently reported that when the RNC announced that it would no longer be funding that effort, many members loudly condemned the decision.

"The Trump campaign should keep in mind, this ain't just about the White House. It's bigger than that, bigger than one candidate," an unnamed RNC member told Axios.

New RNC chairman Michael Whatley — who was elected to his role earlier this month along with co-chair Lara Trump (the spouse of the former president's son, Eric) — reportedly reversed course on the proposed cuts after a discussion with Trump senior adviser Chris LaCivita.

"It looks like the RNC is making an adjustment," RNC member Shawn Steel told Axios. "I hope they will expand the community centers."

"There are probably 1,000,000 Asian American votes in the five battleground states," he added. "Community engagement would be fantastically effective. That would include of course legions of African American males and Latinos in general."

The RNC has had to keep a close eye on its budget as Republicans are at a significant financial advantage compared to their Democratic counterparts. Ballotpedia notes that as of January 31, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had more than $24 million in cash on hand out of over $137 million raised, while the RNC had less than $9 million in cash currently available while raising $98.7 million. And given their presumptive nominee's sky-high legal bills, the GOP will need to juice its fundraising in order to stay competitive in several contentious down-ballot races.

Outside of the presidential election, the GOP also hopes to recapture the majority in the US Senate, where it needs a net gain of two seats to retake the upper chamber of Congress. However, the road to the majority goes through Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jon Tester (D-Montana), both of whom are popular, well-known incumbents running for another six-year term in reliably red states. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rick Scott (R-Florida) are also going to need financial assistance from their party in order to win their own expensive statewide reelection races.

If the RNC hopes to maintain its paper-thin majority in the House of Representatives, it will also need to bring in significant amounts of campaign cash. The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) has raised $100 million in the 2023-2024 campaign cycle as of January 31, but the Democratic National Campaign Committee (DCCC) has out-raised the GOP by more than $30 million.

Lara Trump previously stated that she "absolutely" believes the RNC could help pay down Trump's legal bills, despite the ex-president owing more than half a billion dollars in civil judgments and having to fund a criminal defense in three separate jurisdictions this year. In 2023 alone, Trump's allied PACs spent more than $55 million paying his lawyers.




RNC members see Lara Trump as a sharp message maker, answer to their fundraising struggles

March 10, 2024

Former President Donald Trump, right, listens as his daughter-in-law Lara Trump speaks at the North Carolina Republican Convention, June 5, 2021, in Greenville, N.C. Donald Trump is calling for a shakeup at the highest levels of the Republican National Committee...

Former President Donald Trump, right, listens as his daughter-in-law Lara Trump speaks at the North Carolina Republican Convention, June 5, 2021, in Greenville, N.C. Donald Trump is calling for a shakeup at the highest levels of the Republican National Committee. And party leaders are taking it very seriously. (AP Photo/Chris Seward, Fike)

- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2024




HOUSTON — Party leaders gathered here over the weekend for the Republican National Committee‘s spring meeting are hopeful new co-chair Lara Trump, with her famous last name and media presence, can fix the organization’s fundraising struggles.

Ms. Trump, a former news anchor who is GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump‘s daughter-in-law, and Trump loyalist Michael Whatley were elected Friday to replace longtime RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, completing the former president’s takeover of the group.

RNC members who lined up to meet her for the first time at a reception one day before Friday’s election were optimistic the former Fox News contributor and producer can attract the big-dollar donors needed to fuel her father-in-law’s presidential bid.

 

“We all wanted to meet her,” GOP California Committeeman Shawn Steel told The Washington Times. It’s exciting and she’s proven herself. She’s been a loyal, steadfast Trump spokesman.”

Mr. Steel described her as level-headed and making a good impression whenever she speaks.

He added that impression is “going to make the RNC probably a billion-dollar organization this year alone. That’s phenomenal.”

After her election, Ms. Trump waved a $100,000 donor check made out to the RNC as she stressed that Republicans have to play the game a “little differently” against Democrats and encourage early voting. She later told reporters the RNC must raise a half-billion dollars this year for Mr. Trump and other Republicans to win.

 

Tennessee GOP Committeeman Oscar Brock told The Times he did not know Ms. Trump well and only met her on a couple of occasions but that she seemed to command a “great presence.”

“I think she’ll be great doing media and fundraising and taking advantage of her celebrity status and getting people to return her phone calls, when she’s calling around asking for money,” he said.

The RNC leadership pairing of Ms. Trump and Mr. Whatley, who is chair of the North Carolina GOP and is known for backing voter integrity initiatives, will put the RNC on a new footing compared to recent years. 

The RNC, which is known to usually elect its top leaders from among its 168 members, decided to make an exception this time with Ms. Trump

The organization has been struggling to fundraise over the past few months and needed to take a credit line to better compete with the Democrats’ machine in the upcoming presidential election.

Mr. Whatley, who is well known among the 168 members as the organization’s previous general counsel, was picked by Mr. Trump for his election integrity strategies that he incorporated in North Carolina.

He’ll be charged with incorporating some of those strategies nationwide, as confirmed by Ms. Trump, who announced the RNC’s first-ever election integrity division that will be based on the North Carolina GOP blueprint.

The RNC has plans for an expanded nationwide network of volunteers with trained poll watchers and workers.

 

Ms. Trump called on her father-in-law’s supporters who are attorneys, among others who want to help, to volunteer to work and observe Election Day practices at the polls. She described the Trump network of volunteers as people who can physically go in and count ballots.

“We can never allow what happened in 2020 and the question surrounding that election to ever happen again,” she said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday Morning Futures.” She said the RNC currently has 78 lawsuits out right now in 23 states.



“And here’s what I want to say to anyone out there who is thinking about cheating in an election, we will go after you,” Ms. Trump said. “You will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It is not worth it.”

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.





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