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After a dramatic overhaul, what's next for the Republican National Committee?


Former President Donald Trump is remaking the Republican National Committee. He's pushed for the removal of the former chair after the RNC had its worst fundraising year in almost a decade. The new chair is North Carolina Republican Michael Whatley, who embraces lies that the 2020 election was stolen. The new co-chair is Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump. And under their leadership, more than 60 RNC staffers have been fired. The RNC hasn't seen an overhaul like this since former President Richard Nixon. Here to talk about these developments and what they could mean for the future of the GOP is Republican strategist Liam Donovan. So, Liam, what does it mean for committee leadership to be loyal to a candidate over the party itself?

LIAM DONOVAN: You know, I think it's important to put this in context. When you're the party out of power, the national committee always effectively merges with the campaign and the nominee brings in their own people. The main difference here is that it's happening early and more directly than usual. And that's related to the other distinction that the presumptive nominee is the former president and a pseudo-incumbent in his own right. But really, this is another instance of Donald Trump taking something that's directionally normal, but doing it in the most sensational and disruptive way possible.

MARTÍNEZ: So if the candidate is the party, then it makes sense for the committee leadership to be loyal to the candidate?

DONOVAN: Well, I mean, the Trump campaign is bringing in their own people who will be loyal to President Trump. That's his prerogative. It's done with the knowledge that there were leakers and doubters in the building in previous campaigns. But I think it's important to note that this is the most professionalized version of the Trump campaign we've ever seen. The people he's deputized to come in and make sure that the trains are running on time, they've won a lot of races, they know how to run a national party. They were doing it before President Trump was ever on the scene. So I think that's the signal to watch here. There's some names that get thrown around here, you know, that are a little bit, you know, out of the ordinary. But the people who are at the top, the Chris LaCivitas, the Sean Cairncrosses, the world - these are pros. And they're more - you know, they've won more races than most of the people that we've generally talked about in the Trump orbit.

MARTÍNEZ: What do you think was behind the strategy of cleaning house like it did?

DONOVAN: Well, for one thing, you just mentioned the problems that the RNC has been having as of late. And whether we can lay that at the feet of Ronna McDaniel or anyone else at the RNC, there probably needed to be a shakeup at a certain point, just from the standpoint of, you know, even symbolically making sure that people were comfortable, you know, donors were comfortable, that people were comfortable that the, you know, funds are being spent well. We'll see what that means in practice.

But I think, you know, again, this is something that happened in 2008 with John McCain coming in. This is the same thing that happened with Mitt Romney coming in, in 2012. So the only thing strange here is that at some level, Trump has had his hands on the RNC since 2016. This is just really, you know, a double down in terms of making sure you've got the most loyal people at the top and the most experienced people at the top.

MARTÍNEZ: So is there any going back for the RNC now that we see how Trump has taken control of it? I mean, what would stop the next GOP presidential candidate from doing the exact same thing?

DONOVAN: I think they have and I think they will. I mean, obviously, this is kind of a caricature of what usually happens. But I absolutely think there is precedent and will be subsequent examples of the next nominee or the next president, certainly, taking over that building and making it in their own image. But remember, when we talk about the Republican National Committee, the committee itself is made up of state party chairs, of state party committeemen and women, who are ultimately a reflection of the grassroots. So it makes sense that at this juncture in time, after a primary where the former president swept through with - sort of without much of a challenge that he would come in and, you know, put in his people. So I don't think it's all that surprising.

I think the concerning thing, if you're a Republican who likes to win races, is some of the moves they've made early on don't give a whole lot of confidence with respect to the mail vote, some of the things that do need to improve. And they are, you know, deemphasizing certain things that I think a lot of people think need to be emphasized more. So I think the concern over putting loyal people in is less of an issue than what those loyal people are doing when they get there. But again, I think the people who are at the top running the show are people who probably deserve a little bit of trust from Republicans. This isn't, you know, the Trump people coming in to clean house so much as it is experienced operatives that have the trust of President Trump coming in to right the ship.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Republican strategist Liam Donovan. Liam, thanks.

DONOVAN: Thanks, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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